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Coach Study: The Joe Louis Story


The Joe Louis Story is a 1953 American movie starring Coley Wallace as Joe Louis, James Edwards as Jack "Chappie" Blackburn, and Shorty Linton (Louis's first trainer) as himself. Wallace himself was an accomplished pro boxer who once beat Rocky Marciano as an amateur.

What's remarkable about this dramatized training is its accuracy. It captures very real coaching wisdom of the time. The scenes with Linton are also unscripted. It's a short video, but there's so much to cover because the footage is pure gold.

I can't think of one boxing expert or historian who thinks modern boxers are better than their counterparts from the past. Boxing in the US is the inverse of other sports. While other sports have become more popular, boxing has declined in popularity.

Many of today's sports stars are better than their past counterparts because they're bigger, more athletic, and have had more play time. In boxing, however, since the peak was the past, fighters of the past had more fights and more experience. Since boxing also has weight divisions, size isn't relevant. In addition, there was more money in boxing relative to other sports, which meant they had better training and better athletes.

One thing you won't see in most old boxing movies, even from the 80s, is pad work. You won't see it in The Joe Louis Story. You probably won't see it in any of the training footage of the top ten greatest pound-for-pound boxers of all time.

What you will see in The Joe Louis Story is shadowboxing drills with the coach watching and giving feedback, then designing new drills to get a desired behavior. Also a lot of training situations for theory. Every moment is teachable.

A lot of coaching is about watching. It's also about developing an embodied fighter who understands how their body moves through air. Constantly hitting things doesn't let you know if you would have lost your balance if you didn't run into something. Learning to crash into things to hold yourself up is how you'll crash into your opponent's punches.

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