SACKVILLE, N.B. – Obviously, there aren’t many folks who will remember what is considered to have been perhaps the greatest prize fight in boxing history.
This match took place on Dec. 10, 1958, at the Montreal Forum and featured the legendary Archie Moore and the Fighting Fisherman from Baie Ste. Anne, N.B. – Yvon Durelle.
Moore was the heavy betting favourite – a cagey veteran who had fought and beaten the best the sport had to offer. It was believed to be a mismatch but the pride and joy of the Miramichi gave this no thought.
Your columnist and good friend Gus MacFarlane watched the bout on black and white TV and were riveted by what we saw as Durelle, ever the bon vivant, came within a second of capturing the light heavyweight championship of the world.
Durelle had held the Canadian championship and really earned his shot for the world crown with an upset victory over Englshman Tony Anthony in a scintillating match.
The Moore match started with Durelle going on attack and before you realized it he had knocked Moore to the floor three times in the first round and once again in the fifth.
But fans will never forget the long count – the time the referee was late in starting the count and Moore was able to recover from the early thumping and went on the score a knockout in the 11th round.
It was this match that cemented Durelle as a legend throughout Canada.
They met once again and this time Moore finished his opponent off early.
In honour of the 60th anniversary of the fight, an exhibit of that bout will be held on the University of Moncton campus.
Our own Bob Edgett became a close friend of Durelle and actually worked with him in preparation for bouts. While he admired the boxer’s talent, he would often become frustrated with him when he would refuse to train properly.
Durelle loved the good life and left little doubt.
It’s recalled he and some cousins, also fighters, came to a boxing show staged by Edgett in Amherst and arrived complete with refreshments. Later on, he pulled on the gloves for an exhibition with the Pride of Sackville and it became a battle, as Bob, expecting some light boxing, ended up defending himself and then traded some heavy punches.
Both men survived, although at times it was a question but this demonstrated the person that was Yvon Durelle.
It is also recalled that the main event of that card turned into a blockbuster. Ted Doncaster, who went on to win the New England light heavyweight title, was paired with another Edgett protégée in Larry Ross.
For four rounds Ross used his speed and quickness to build up a point advantage on Doncaster. But with just a minute left in the fifth he turned to smile at a fan and 30 minutes later he was still stretched out in the dressing room. Doncaster used that one opening, and with a 12-inch blow, laid his opponent out cold.
It is also recalled that Doncaster returned from Boston and hooked up with manager-promoter Chris Sheban of Moncton. He had a few fights and then ran into Chalky Wright from New Jersey who proved a little too smooth. That was the final outing for the Sackville cop, but Durelle promised to teach Wright a lesson – that proved disastrous also and proved to be the end of his career.
These three great scrappers – Durelle, Edgett and Doncaster – are all off in a better land where love, rather than fighting, rules.