I have been promising to write some detailed pieces on Joe Louis for some time. Very few fighters in any discipline have stylistically affected my own sparring, training and teaching as much as Joe Louis has. Why did I fall in love with Louis' style? I was interested in knockouts, yes, but I was interested in fighters who knocked their opponents out, without getting hurt on the way. Louis' style - though it is called textbook by many great coaches including Freddie Roach - is still not utilized today to the same effect Louis utilized it at his best. Boxing has, no doubt, changed - but the rise of Mixed Martial Arts where gloves cannot simply be held to one's cheeks to shield blows has drawn more attention to the subtle techniques that made Louis great such as the dipping jab.
The base of Louis' style was his crouch, which has sometimes been referred to as the Blackburn crouch, a name which I very much like. Jack Blackburn is an incredibly interesting figure in the history of boxing, having run a moderately successful career with almost 150 fights. Serving a prison sentence from 1909 - 1913 for murder, Blackburn was no doubt a controversial figure, which made the decision by Louis' early management to put Louis in the hands of Blackburn even more curious, as their main concern was to make Louis appear meek, mild mannered, and respectful - the anti Jack Johnson. Blackburn not only nurtured Joe Louis, but abandoned his older, less athletic prospect, Jersey Joe Walcott, to do so.
Later in Blackburn's life, a young Sugar Ray Robinson began to attend Joe Louis' training camps and was reportedly the only one willing to go fishing on the lake with Blackburn despite having no interest in it. In his autobiography, Robinson recounts with a moving enthusiasm, how he used to go fishing with Blackburn just to hear Blackburn talk about boxing. With Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott and Ray Robinson all under the direct influence of Blackburn, it is arguable that his training produced the savviest stable of fighters of any coach to date!
One common feature of these three Blackburn fighters is their stance. While Joe Louis shuffled back and forth, Sugar Ray Robinson danced to his left all night, and Jersey Joe Walcott stepped across himself with either leg and turned his back multiple times in a fight, they all engaged in a very similar, technically excellent stance.
Notice in these twoimagesof Louis (one seems to be southpaw, I'm unsure if it is mirrored, Louis rarely switched stances) how he carries his hips turned back - making his right hand's path a long one but placing him almost sideways on. Additionally, he is bent forward at the waist - taking his head off of the centreline and making it very hard to reach with right hands. This means that his lead hand may be held lower - making it harder to see coming and adding power to it by linking it's motion more fully with the movement of the body. The tendency in many fighters who fight with their hands high is to jab from the arm alone - Louis, Robinson and Walcott all carried their lead and low and stepped in with their weight behind their jab.
Continues in detail with gifs and video at: http://www.fightsgoneby.com/2012/07/examining-joe-louis-blackburn-crouch.html