Clenched teeth, tense biceps, a grim look – French President Emmanuel Macron appears aggressive on social media with a series of black-and-white photos from his private boxing training. His official photographer Soazig de la Moissonnière shared the images on Tuesday.

The immediate feedback from the sporting contribution is half amused, half strange. Forums and comment columns were quickly full of references to Rocky Balboa, the boxer from the Silvester Stallone films.

Quite a few also see the post as a combative response to Vladimir Putin. In recent years he has staged himself as a judoka, then as an ice hockey player and, as most people know, shirtless on the back of a horse.

The French president has sharpened his tone towards Russia in recent months. Most recently, in the context of the war in Ukraine, he demanded that Europe should not be weak. Macron also did not rule out sending Western ground troops to Ukraine.

Macron had already made headlines during the 2022 election campaign when he appeared on a sofa with his shirt unbuttoned and his chest hairy. Opinions about this type of political communication divide the French public.

The magazine “Femme Actuelle”, for example, described the photos from the training almost exuberantly. The president would hit the punching bag “so hard that his biceps threatened to burst out of his black T-shirt.” The political opposition, on the other hand, had fewer warm words for Macron. Green MP Sandrine Rousseau wrote on X: “What a defeat for progressivism. What poverty of political communication.”

Speaking on the radio station France Info, historian Éric Anceau from the Université de Lorraine even compared Macron’s social media presence with Vladimir Putin’s public relations work. The new photos are part of a “neo-populist masculinity” that political decision-makers still like to adorn themselves with.

Sources: Guardian, World, X