Wilbert “Pee Wee” Moss, a 1949 NCAA boxing champion and one of the most accomplished figures in the history of LSU’s once storied boxing program, died Thursday night in Baton Rouge at the age of 86.The 1949 NCAA national champion in the featherweight division, Moss competed for the LSU boxing team in 1948 and 1949, helping lead the Tigers to a team national title in 1949. Moss ranks among the most recognized figures in the history of Tiger Athletics and was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1958.
“Pee Wee Moss and Tad Thrash were the greatest boxers in the history of the university,” said Joe Dean, former LSU athletic director and a standout basketball player at LSU during the time boxing was in its heyday in Baton Rouge.
A native of Beaumont, Texas, Moss attended LSU on the GI Bill and earned a boxing scholarship his sophomore year. As a junior in 1948 he was the NCAA runner-up in the bantamweight division, leading LSU to a fourth place national finish that year.
Moss’ senior campaign of 1949 proved to be the greatest year in Tiger boxing history. It was LSU’s second season back in action after World War II interrupted the sport. Under head coach Jim Owen, the Tigers went undefeated in regular season play, finishing the year by beating South Carolina in front of 11,000 fans in LSU’s Parker Coliseum, en route to its first and only national title.
“We worked hard all week and fought as hard as we could on the weekends,” Moss once said. “We wanted to win our fights and go to the national tournament. We were able to meet our goal.”
It was also Moss’ best year as he won the individual NCAA national title in the featherweight division, beating Mac Martinez of San Jose State to finish with a stunning career record of 14-1 in NCAA boxing competition. With teammate Thrash taking the national title in the junior lightweight division, LSU claimed the NCAA Boxing national championship.
“Martinez was the toughest fighter I ever fought,” Moss once said. “He was constantly coming forward and punches did not seem to bother him.”
Moss lived in Baton Rouge since 1959 and retired as the principal of Kenilworth Junior High School in 1982 after a long career as a teacher, coach and administrator. He and his wife produced two children and several grandchildren, all of whom earned degrees from LSU.
Moss and Thrash returned together to LSU in 2009, throwing out a first pitch at a baseball game at Alex Box Stadium in celebration of the 60th anniversary of LSU’s 1949 boxing national championship.