Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Billy Petrolle: The Fargo Express

By Peter Silkov

In the 1920s and 30s, Billy Petrolle was one of the toughest fighters of his era, and was one of the outstanding lightweights, at a time when the 135 pound division was the most talented in boxing.  Petrolle was a little dynamo of a fighter, seemingly impervious to punishment himself, he could dish out severe punishment of his own with both hands, and was especially deadly to the body. Within a 12 year professional career, that spanned from 1922 to 1934, Billy fought all the greats of his time, from featherweight to lightweight, including, Barney Ross, Sammy Fuller, Tony Canzoneri, Jimmy Mclarnin, Jack ‘Kid’ Berg, and Jimmy Goodrich, amongst others.
Petrolle was born William Michael Petrolle and had two brothers, Pete and Frank, who were also boxers.  But it was Billy who gained the greatest success during his career, with a aggressive and relentless come forward style, his nickname of ‘The Fargo Express’ summed up his fighting style perfectly, and also why he was such a huge hit with the fans.  Petrolle was managed by Jack Hurley, a manager who was full of angles and guided Petrolle into a huge number of profitable fights with fellow top contenders, which grew great crowds and generated a lot of money, even during the depression of the late 20s and early 30s.

Despite his success and popularity with the crowds, Petrolle found a world title opportunity elusive for many years, until Tony Canzoneri finally let him have a try at his World lightweight championship, on November 4, 1932.  Canzoneri was an all- time great, who won world titles at three weights, and put together one of the performances of his career, to outbox and outwork Petrolle for points win after 15 rounds. 

Although he never won a world title, Petrolle retired in 1934 with 200,000 dollars saved from his career. In retirement Petrolle owned an Iron Foundry in his home state of Duluth Minnesota, and also ran a religious goods, gift shop.

Copyright © 2014 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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