Known as the Cincinnati Cobra, Ezzard Charles was a professional boxer and World Heavyweight Champion from 1949 – 1951. A long time Cincinnatian, he was also an entrepreneur, a musician, a multilinguist, and a good-will ambassador to the West End community, where he lived at the height of his boxing career. The statue is to be erected within Laurel Park along Ezzard Charles Drive in the West End of Cincinnati.
Local artist John Hebenstreit, known for the Black Brigade monument in Smale Riverfront Park, began sculpting the 13-foot statue of Ezzard Charles in 2017. The work of the Ezz Committee—consisting of two former Haile fellows, designer Jason Snell & videographer Kailah Ware, as well as architect Jaipal Singh, writer James Cunningham, biographer Bill Dettloff, and Hebenstreit—supports the concept originated by CPF Board member and pop-artist, Andrew VanSickle. Earlier this year, the Carol Ann & Ralph V. Haile, Jr. Foundation KNOCKED OUT the fundraising dollars needed to complete the statue, dedicating $200K to the project.
How The Statue Is Made
John Hebenstreit has finished crafting the Ezzard Charles statue from clay. There are several additional steps before the clay statue can be made into the actual bronze casting of the piece. Before moving to the foundry, the statue was scanned using a process called photogrammetry. This process projects “graphic noise” like old TV static onto the statues surface. This noise helps the photogrammetry software find points on the surface to extrapolate depth and create a digital file which can be sent to a 3D printer. In addition, over 1,000 photographs were taken of the clay statue from different angles to feed into the software.
Once delivered to the foundry for bronze casting, a complex mold will be made over the clay statue in order to capture its detail. A mold made for a statue of Ezzard’s size is broken up into many sections. Each section of the mold has two layers. The first layer of the mold is made of rubber so that it can be easily removed from the sculpture. The second layer is made of plaster and is applied to support the rubber layer. Once the mold is complete it is pulled from the clay statue and wax is painted into it to capture all the fine details. After the wax has completely cooled, the plaster mold followed by the rubber mold are removed, revealing the wax casting.
Once a strong ceramic shell has been created extreme heat is applied and the wax is burned out leaving the ceramic shell completely hollow. Next, molten bronze is poured into the cast. Bronze ingots are heated from 1900 to 2100 degrees. The molten bronze is then poured into the hollow shells and allowed to cool and solidify. The ceramic shell is then removed from the bronze casting.
As the Ezzard Charles statue will be broken up into many workable sections it requires reassembly by welding the cast pieces of bronze together. The weld seams are then removed or “chased” and the statue polished to prepare the bronze for color and final installation.