The painted mild steel sculpture, simply titled Shadow Boxing, was unveiled in 2013 as Mandela battled a lung ailment in the hospital. It is a 6-meter-tall representation of Mandela as a young, amateur boxer and was based on a well-known shot by Drum photographer Bob Gosani. The artwork at 225 Market Street in Johannesburg has many faces, is constructed of several layers of painted metal sheets, and is both two- and three-dimensional, making it fascinating to view. The artist, Cianfanelli, has discussed the idea of using boxing as a metaphor for the court system in relation to this sculpture, which is situated right in front of the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court.
He is most likely alluding to this line by Mandela about boxing: “I preferred the science of boxing over the physical violence. I was fascinated by how people moved their bodies to defend themselves, how they employed a strategy to attack and withdraw, and how they paced themselves during a match “.
Mandela also said, “In the ring, rank, age, colour, and fortune are immaterial,” below the statue. Red was added to the monument by Cianfanelli, who is well-known for his other representation of Mandela near the location of his capture in KwaZulu-Natal, in order to emphasize the sculpture and correspond with the colour of Chancellor House.
Cianfanelli goes on to say that the strange sculpture is a “pop play on Warhol’s gun-toting Elvis Presley.” At the same time, it honours the photographer Bob Gosani’s life and body of work. The artwork is distinctive in that it depicts Mandela as a boxer rather than his political persona.