Canadian boxing great Yvon Durelle dies

Yvon Durelle, the New Brunswick boxer best known for his epic battle with one of the sport's greats, Archie Moore, died Saturday in Moncton.

Yvon Durelle, the New Brunswick boxer best known for his epic battle with one of the sport's greats, Archie Moore, died Saturday in Moncton.

He was 77.

Durelle had suffered a stroke on Christmas Day and also had Parkinson's disease, family members told the Canadian Press.

Born in Baie-Ste-Anne, the fighter dubbed the Fighting Fisherman turned pro just shy of his 18th birthday in 1947.

Durelle would win the Canadian middleweight title (160 pounds) with a 12-round stoppage over George Ross in Glace Bay, N.S., in 1953.

Within the same calendar year he would then move up to the division he would settle at to win the Canadian light heavyweight belt (175 pounds) with a 12-round decision over Gordon Wallace. He would later add the BritishEmpire title in the division.

While there were great fighters raised in Canada who came before him, such as Tommy Burns and Jimmy McLarnin, they largely plied their trade outside the country. Durelle was one of the first truly "Canadian" fighters of any stature.

He fought the majority of his career in Eastern Canada, and on the occasions he ventured to the U.S. or Europe, he lost more than he won, including two defeats to future heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson in 1954.

Moore fight historic

Durelle strung together a series of wins and took on the 43-year-old Moore on Dec. 10, 1958, at the Montreal Forum, a fight that would go down in the annals of boxing history.

A prohibitive underdog, Durelle decked Moore three times in the first round and seemed on the verge of a stunning upset. He again floored the champion in the fifth round.

But the "Ol' Mongoose," as Moore was dubbed, knew every trick in the boxing book, and summoned nearly all of them to come from behind and batter Durelle for an 11th-round stoppage.

A rematch took place eight months later in the same city, but Moore easily dispatched Durelle in three rounds.

Moore, who would fight the likes of Patterson, Joey Maxim, Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali in his career, often told boxing scribes that it was his toughest fight.

Being on the wrong side of one of boxing's greatest comebacks became years later a source of pride and not bitterness for Durelle.

"He was a nice guy, a hell of a guy," Durelle told the Moncton Times-Transcript when Moore passed in 1998.

Took on Chuvalo

One of Durelle's last major fights would be an attempt to win the Canadian heavyweight title in 1960, but a young George Chuvalo would stop his bid in the 12th round.

Like Joe Louis and many other heavier fighters of his era, Durelle would take a stab at earning an income through pro wrestling, though it didn't last long. He retired for good from boxing in 1963.

His record would stand at 90 wins, 51 by knockout, against 24 losses and two draws.

Durelle would later help young fighters and own local businesses. He was charged with murder in the late 1970s after a patron at a Miramichi, N.B., bar he owned was shot to death, but was successfully defended by the man who would dominate the province's politics a decade later, Frank McKenna.

Between 1971 and 1989 Durelle would be inducted in both the New Brunswick and Canadian Sports halls of fame, as well as the country's boxing hall of fame.

He was also the subject of a book, The Fighting Fisherman, by Raymond Fraser in 1981.