Macron’s boxing photos show off his muscles – but he’s not the first leader to try to flaunt his strength


Emmanuel Macron’s new boxing photos have impressed so many people online that he’s got “Rocky” trending on social media.

The French president’s official photographer, Soazig de la Moissonnière, posted two black and white images of him in action using a punch bag, looking determined as he offloads right hooks in a fitted black T-shirt.

Pic: Soazig de la Moissonniere/Presidence de la Republique

The photos led to lots of compliments for the 46-year-old leader on his sizeable biceps, while others have questioned whether they were in fact digitally enhanced because they were less impressed by photos of him boxing in 2022. In fairness, he was wearing a long-sleeved shirt at the time.

The latest images were posted days after Mr Macron talked tough about sending Western troops to help defend Ukraine from Russia, saying “Europe must be ready for war”.

“We’re not in that situation today,” he added, but said “all these options are possible”.

It wasn’t the first time Macron had harshened his rhetoric on Russia’s war. Moscow reacted by saying French units in Ukraine would be “priority” targets.

French President Emmanuel Macron training with amateur boxer Jean-Denis Nzaramba in 2022. Pic: AP

Gaspard Gantzer, a French political communications adviser, said the boxing photos were “unexpected” but effectively got Mr Macron’s point across.

Speaking to French newspaper Nice-Matin, Mr Gantzer said: “What does he want to tell us by doing that? No doubt that the president is a Frenchman like any other, who has a personal life, who plays sports.

“Then, that he is in great physical shape, he is at the top of his form and remains someone energetic, motivated.

“Finally, he wants to fight.”

Others, such as opposition Greens politician, Sandrine Rousseau, were less impressed.

“What misery of politics. What a defeat for progressivism. And what poverty of political communication,” she wrote in a tweet where she reposted the photos.

Other leaders who wanted to show off their physical prowess

Macron’s muscles may have been a break from the typical ‘leader in a suit behind a desk’ look, but these images certainly weren’t the most outlandish ones taken of top politicians over the years.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is known for his photo stunts to project his strength and once famously rode a horse bare-chested in 2009.

Vladimir Putin pictured bare chested and riding a horse in 2009. Image: AP

Then there’s… well, Mr Putin again, this time playing hockey during an exhibition game.

Putin takes part in an exhibition game in Moscow in 2018. Pic: Reuters/Sputnik/Alexei Nikolsky

In tamer efforts, Sir Keir Starmer used a similar tactic to Mr Macron in 2021, posing in gloves during a visit to a boxing club in Hull.

The end result, the Labour leader would surely admit, is slightly less intimidating than that of Mr Macron’s photos.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer poses during a visit to the Vulcan Boxing Club in Hull in 2021. Pic: PA

Prime ministers before Boris Johnson had been known to roll their sleeves up to demonstrate just how hard they were working – but had any taken on archery at the same time?

Not before Mr Johnson, surely, and certainly not since.

Boris Johnson takes part in archery during a visit to a summer camp in 2020. Pic: AP

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That was just one of many times the former mayor of London and prime minister tried to show off his physical skills.

He has also been pictured doing press-ups and playing the likes of ping pong, basketball and football during his political career.

And who could forget when he barreled a 10-year-old boy to the ground during a game of street rugby in Tokyo in 2015?

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When Johnson knocked over a child playing rugby

We may not have quite as physically assertive a prime minister these days, but Rishi Sunak has certainly given it a go at points.

Just last month, on a visit to Plymouth, he had a go at a rock climbing facility, for example.

Rishi Sunak and Johnny Mercer MP visit the Special Olympics and the Scouts at the YMCA. Pic: CCHQ

The prime minister’s best action man impression. Pic: CCHQ

He’s also reportedly taken on Taylor Swift-themed exercise classes on a holiday to Los Angeles. But in fairness, he didn’t try to brag about it – though witnesses seeing the “Secret Service everywhere” gave his presence away.

Posting on TikTok, Hannah Harmelin said the prime minister joined her 7am SoulCycle class on a Friday last year, saying: “I think I just had the biggest heart attack of my life.”

She described seeing the security presence and added: “Turns out it was the prime minister of the UK – apparently he’s a Swifty.”

Perhaps Mr Putin and Mr Macron should take note – exercise doesn’t always have to be about looking tough. Catchy pop songs can help leaders work up a sweat, too.