Retzlaff was born in Leonard, North Dakota.
Retzlaff made his professional debut with a second-round knockout of Gus Kermits in April 1929. Retzlaff remained undefeated through his first 21 bouts (20 wins and one no-decision), losing for the first time by disqualification against Antonio de la Mata in Chicago in November 1930. Retzlaff would avenge that loss with a first-round knockout in a rematch one month later. 11 more wins followed before Retzlaff suffered his next loss, to 41-23-5 Joe Sekyra in September 1931. More wins would follow, and Retzlaff carried a record of 35-2-2 into a match with fellow Minnesotan Dick Daniels. Retzlaff scored three knockdowns and a first-round knockout en route to winning the vacant Minnesota State Heavyweight Title. This title would be defended in May 1933 and again in September 1935 against Art Lasky. In January 1936 Retzlaff lost by first-round knockout to a young prospect named Joe Louis. In his final defense of the Minnesota heavyweight title Retzlaff could manage only a draw against 17-9 Arne Andersson. Retzlaff would retire afterwards, having compiled a career record of 61-8 with 52 wins by knockout.Retzlaff returned to the family farm near Leonard, ND in 1940. In 1950 he opened an automobile dealership in Detroit Lakes, MN and died in that town in 1950. He and his wife are buried in Leonard, ND.
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