Is Macron really trying to send a 'message from France' with boxing photo?

Author thumbnail
The Local France/AFP - [email protected]
Is Macron really trying to send a 'message from France' with boxing photo?
France's President Emmanuel Macron, pictured during a visit to Thailand.Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

A photo of French president Emmanuel Macron in boxing gloves has sparked an outpouring of commentary and analysis attempting to decode what, if any, message the Elysée is sending with the sporting snap.


The 46-year-old president was pictured on Wednesday pounding a punching bag in images posted to the Instagram account of his official photographer, Soazig de la Moissoniere.

The arty black-and-white shot is among dozens posted on Instagram by de la Moissoniere, who posts pictures every couple of days showing the daily life of the president - from formal pictures of meeting and greeting foreign leaders to more candid snaps of Macron with his wife Brigitte and his three dogs.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Soazig de la Moissonnière (@soazigdelamoissonniere)



But while the more staid pictures of politicians (usually men) sitting around tables generally pass without comment, the boxing photo has inspired a rash of attempts of analysis about what it 'really' means.

"(Macron) is a technocrat having a go at the populist style, by trying to respond to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin on his own turf," said Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet, an expert in political communication, told Agence France Presse.


The images follow weeks in which Macron has defended his comments about not ruling out sending NATO troops to fight in Ukraine, invaded by the Russian leader more than two years ago. Putin has often sought to project physical prowess with judo or boxing bouts and a now infamous bare-chested horse riding excursion in 2009.

With boxing, Macron has turned to a sport "compatible with exercising state power" Moreau-Chevrolet said.

"It's a violent sport but with rules - like politics. As often with Emmanuel Macron, it's also a very theatrical image of a hero overcoming suffering," he added.

Others were less flattering - Green party MP Sandrine Rousseau complained of "masculinist codes used to excess" in a post on X, the same language she had used to condemn Macron's talk of sending troops to Ukraine.

"What a miserable form of politics. What a defeat for progressivism. What lazy political communication," she added.

An alternative explanation might be that for the photographer, the boxing picture was a lot more interesting than yet another shot of men having a meeting?

It was another photo from de la Moissoniere - this time of Macron wearing a hoodie shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 - that sparked the last round of frenzied speculation on what 'message' the picture might have been sending.

Political knock-outs

Boxing has numerous acolytes in the French political class, with Macron's former prime minister Edouard Philippe a passionate fighter.

The sport taught him to "overcome the fear you can feel in scary situations", he has said.

Right-wing women politicians have also stepped into the ring in France, including the leader of the Paris region, Valérie Pécresse, and Rachida Dati, now Macron's culture minister.

"Even if people might think it's an odd sport for a woman, it projects the image of being a fighter," Pécresse told weekly Le Point.

Likewise Macron's former government spokesman Olivier Véran has also been posting pictures of himself boxing in recent days - albeit with slightly less cool photos than his former boss. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Olivier Véran (@olivierveran)


French voters became used to seeing right-wing former president Nicolas Sarkozy in a tracksuit or on his mountain bike, or 1970s leader Valery Giscard d'Estaing on the football pitch or the ski slopes.

Turning to physically robust sports has not always played well for politicians.


Britain's Boris Johnson - himself pictured in the past wearing red boxing gloves - was left red-faced in 2015 when he flattened a 10-year-old Japanese rugby fan while playing during a visit to Tokyo.

In France, the national boxing federation boasted 60,000 members last year - more than double the figure for 2021.

Boxing has also migrated from being a working-class sport once beloved of the French Communist party to a more middle-class pursuit, with gyms springing up in wealthy cities like Paris.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has also been growing in popularity since the sport, which combines kickboxing and wrestling, was legalised in France by Macron's government in 2020.

The first bouts organised by global outfit Ultimate Fighting Championship were held in 2022 and are now broadcast regularly on TV channel RMC sport.

MMA counts tens of thousands of fighters and hundreds of clubs across France.


Comments (1)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Christopher mcardle 2024/03/25 11:18

See Also