BATON ROUGE - Dr. Chad Seifried, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at LSU, has compiled and presented to the LSU Athletic Department a comprehensive record of the history of the sport of boxing at the University.
The report, titled "Boxing at Louisiana State University: The Development and Fall of the South's Premier Boxing Program," documents the history of the sport when it existed at LSU from 1929 to 1956.
The research and report by Seifried is part of a larger project being produced by Don Landry, the former Nicholls State athletics director and former conference commissioner, who participated in the presentation of the paper to LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva. Landry is writing a book titled "Boxing: Louisiana's Forgotten Sport."
"We are thankful to Chad Seifried for his research in keeping alive the memory of a great period in the history of LSU Athletics," said Alleva. "His diligent research gives us a thorough record of one of the great sports in our school's legacy of championship programs. We are grateful to Chad and to Don Landry for their work in giving the sport of boxing its proper historical respect."
The paper produced by Seifried documents the development of the sport of boxing at LSU in the late 1920s and early 1930s into one of the premier boxing programs in the country.
Seifried's research shows that, at the peak of its popularity as a sport, boxing crowds on college campuses were larger than crowds for even major professional prize fighting events. Not only were they popular sporting attractions, they were significant social events as well, drawing men and women alike to post-match receptions attended by the participating fighters.
Boxing grew in participation largely in part because it served as good physical and mental training for young men in the years following World War I. So it was no surprise that LSU, with its rich ROTC program, would excel in the sport because of its military ties. Because LSU required that all freshmen and sophomore males participated in ROTC, LSU was positioned as one of the top four institutions in the country that produced military officers. In turn, it gave LSU prime potential as a regional and national power in the sport of boxing, reports Seifried.
Boxing started as a club sport in 1929 and enjoyed its first varsity season in 1930, promptly recording a record of 5-2 in its first season and 6-1 in the ensuring 1931 campaign as it began to compete with regional powers. By 1934 LSU won its first Southeastern Conference title by beating rival Tulane in front of a crowd of 5,500 spectators, according to Seifried's research.
Late in the 1930s, boxing began to boom at LSU. Adding more SEC titles to its trophy case, the Tigers fought before crowds as large as 15,000 at Wisconsin, and gained national attention with a second place finish in the NCAA Tournament in 1939 and a third place finish in 1940. Tiger stalwarts like Al Michael, Snyder Parham and Heston Daniel helped put LSU on the college boxing map.
World War II interrupted the momentum boxing had built as a college sport. Many schools suspended the sport during the war and some never started it again. But Seifried's research shows LSU blossomed as the premier boxing school in the South after World War II. The Tigers returned to varsity boxing in 1948.
The 1949 campaign, LSU's second season back in action after the war, proved to be its finest. Paced by individual national champions Wilbert "Pee Wee" Moss and Edsel "Tad" Thrash and coached by Jim Owen, the Tigers went undefeated in regular season play, finishing the year by beating South Carolina in front of 11,000 fans in Parker Coliseum, en route to its first and only national title.
Boxing at LSU continued to flourish during the 1950s as fans packed into Parker Coliseum to see the likes of Tiger greats Calvin Clary, Crowe Peele and Bobby Freeman. But late in the decade, Seifried reports that the dwindling number of schools in the region that sponsored boxing as a varsity sport led to higher travel costs for the LSU team. Ultimately, LSU announced in 1956 it would no longer support boxing on the varsity level.
Seifried's report paints a story of one of the great sports programs of all time. LSU was one of the powers in college boxing, recording an all-time dual meet record of 101-22-6, one national championship, 31 individual conference champions, 11 individual NCAA champions and 12 NCAA runners-up.
As Seifried concludes in his report "The program's legacy should live forever even if the sport has not because they did it with great displays of character and sportsmanship. Furthermore, boxing at LSU emerged as a ruggedly beautiful activity capable of testing the mental and physical courage, character, and athleticism of young people; the original argument for accepting the activity into school to help produce and train military officers."