Orval Drouillard, the first boxer inducted into the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame, held the Canadian featherweight and lightweight titles during a storied career in the 1930s. Known as “the Windsor Whirlwind,” he was one of Canada’s great Depression-era boxer.
Born in Windsor on August 17, 1913, Drouillard joined the amateur boxing circuit at the age of 17, quickly establishing himself as a dynamic and skilled fighter. Only two years later, on June 7, 1932, he was fighting in his first professional bout. Drouillard defeated Mickey Nelson of Ferndale, Michigan by scorekeeper’s decision, setting the wheels in motion for a career that would see him regarded as one of North America’s preeminent pugilists.
During the 1930s Depression era, Drouillard stood toe-to-toe in the ring with many of the great boxers of his time. Most impressively, he contested non-title bouts with five world champions: Mike Belloise, Lou Ambers, Bushy Graham, Kid Chocolate, and the legendary Henry Armstrong, a champion in three weight classes.
While Drouillard never reached the heights of “world champion” himself, he did hold the Canadian featherweight and lightweight titles, each for a two-year period.
Drouillard, managed by his uncle “Patsy,” competed across North America over the course of what became a very high-profile boxing career. He fought in legendary venues like Maple Leaf Gardens and Madison Square Garden, plus rings in further several world-class boxing cities, including Montreal, Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Miami, and Hollywood.
Although this sort of schedule is scarcely believable today, Drouillard is known to have once fought 52 bouts in 52 consecutive weeks. It was in a very real sense a different era.
On April 22, 1936, Drouillard faced off against Lou Ambers, then the number one challenger to the world lightweight title, in a high-profile bout at the Detroit Naval Armory. While Ambers eventually prevailed after ten ferociously contested rounds, Drouillard’s resilience and a sensational rally drew him favourable coverage in the international press.
The next year, he earned an eight-round draw against Kid Chocolate in a furiously fought July 27 Jersey City bout.
According to our most reliable records, Orville fought in greater than 172 recognized bouts, winning at least 125 of them. While Drouillard sustained several brutal beatings over his career, dozens of which led to defeats via technical knockout, legend has it that he was never once felled via ten-count knockout.
Orville Drouillard passed away on January 28, 1990.