Born January 10, 1905 in Berwick, PA, the Petrolle family moved to Fargo, ND when Billy was a child. He began boxing as a pro in 1922. Dubbed “The Fargo Express,” Petrolle, who was managed by Jack Hurley, honed his skills by boxing frequently. In fact, it was not uncommon for him to box as often as two or three times a month.
On January 13, 1928, he went 10 rounds with lightweight champion and Hall of Famer Sammy Mandell in a no-decision, non-title bout. Later that year he first drew with Hall of Famer Jackie "Kid' Berg before scoring a 5th round TKO in the rematch. In late 1930, Petrolle hit his stride, decisioning Hall of Famers Tony Canzoneri and Jimmy McLarnin within 2 months of each other. In 1932, he won back to back bouts with Battling Battalino. On November 4, 1932 he lost a 15-round lightweight title match to Tony Canzoneri in the only championship fight of his career. Following a loss to Barney Ross in 1934, he retired from the ring.
In each of his bouts, (credited at 160 bouts, but strongly believed to be over 250), he entered the ring with a red and green Navajo blanket as a good luck charm. During his career he fought ten current or past world champions and was victorious against five of them.
In retirement Petrolle ran a foundry and later owned and operated a religious goods shop. Petrolle died on May 14, 1983 in Vero Beach, FL.