Boxing legend and New Orleans native Jimmy Perrin (born James LaCava) claims he became a boxer because his mother dressed him in “Little Lord Fauntleroy suits” and sent him to dancing school when he was a child in the 1920s. He was teased by schoolmates and began learning to fight then, but it wasn’t until he was 12 that he stepped into the boxing ring at the encouragement of his stepfather.
He continued his athletics at St. Aloysius High School, and at age 17 was a flyweight member of the 1932 U.S. Olympic boxing team. At 5 feet, 5 inches tall, he wasn’t a large man, but his skills as a fighter were powerful. His dancing background was especially helpful to his footwork.
After the Olympics, Perrin boxed professionally for over seven years, and was on the verge of a featherweight championship in 1940. He was never given his chance at a championship bout, but was ranked No. 5 by The Ring magazine.
After leaving the boxing ring in 1941, Perrin was employed by the New Orleans Police Department until his retirement. He stayed active in the boxing world as a coach, referee, judge and corner man.
Perrin was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1965, and into the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame in ’79. He was also made a member of the Louisiana Boxing Commission in ’97. He attended almost every state Hall of Fame induction ceremony after ’65, postponing quadruple heart bypass surgery in ’89 so it wouldn’t interfere with the induction ceremony.
While he never received his shot at the championship, he was and still is referred to as a champion boxer by many. He died in April 1997 at age 82.