Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Champ (Sonny Liston 2)

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Champ (Sonny Liston 2)

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Shaun Leonardo


Champ (Sonny Liston 2)

Creation Date


Medium & Support

charcoal on paper


25 1/2 x 66 in. (64.77 x 167.64 cm)

Credit Line

Museum Purchase, Collectors’ Collaborative and the Lloyd O. and Marjorie Strong Coulter Fund

Accession Number



This artwork may be under copyright. For further information, please consult the Museum’s Copyright Terms and Conditions.

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Focusing on Sonny Liston’s prone body, Shaun Leonardo’s drawing reinterprets Neil Leifer’s iconic 1965 photograph of a victorious Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) hovering over the former heavyweight champion following a bout in Lewiston, Maine. The image captures the aftermath of Ali’s so-called “phantom punch,” delivered so quickly as to render it virtually invisible. In this drawing, Ali is omitted, and the image is cropped to the area immediately around Liston’s body, which has been smudged out of the scene. The drawing evokes the fleeting nature of power achieved through displays of hyper-masculinity captured by the mechanical eyes of cameras in the background. This poignancy of the defeat is heightened by Liston’s struggle to achieve glory in the sport of boxing—which he learned in prison—a professional ambition that often conflicted with his racially tinged interactions with the criminal justice system.

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