Our chessboxing brethren in Italy, the Federazione Italiana ScacchiPugilato (FISP), staged a wonderful series of fights at the Hurricane fight gym in Boffaloro on the outskirts of Milan. The impressively furbished venue, located incongruously in a stark semi-industrial landscape, provided a suitable backdrop to the drama about to unfold.
The headline bout was a mouth-watering clash between two fighters that London Chessboxing have been trying to get in the ring together for years: Italy’s Sergio Leveque the WCBA European Heavyweight Champion and Nikolay Sazhin the WCBA World Heavyweight Champion from Siberia.
This was a night for chessboxing enthusiasts and a big chunk of the audience consisted of active chessboxers, leading promoters of the sport and coaches who had all made the long trip to see this long-standing rivalry settled. Most observers predicted an evenly matched boxing duel with the wily Leveque prevailing through superior chess technique, but right from the first bell it was clear the Russian contingent had prepared a different script altogether.
Not only did Sazhin hold his own in the opening chess round, he was also able to create some initiative with Black, restricting his opponent’s pieces and quietly developing a menacing attack. Then in the subsequent round, looking far lighter and more mobile than we have seen since his days in the light-heavyweight class, Sazhin began to trouble Leveque with jabs and combinations. The pattern had been established and in round three Leveque found himself fending off a strong attack on the open c-file and only just hanging on for equality as the bell ended the round. Any hopes the Italian may have had of turning things around were soon ended. Boxing with great speed and precision Sazhin lined his man up and felled him with a thunderous right hand. Leveque took an 8 count and bravely rose to his feet but the referee had seen enough and ended the encounter.
As Nikolay Sazhin was crowned world champion for a second time we were left to reflect on a marvellous evening of sport and sportsmanship. Without exception all the fighters showed respect, skill and courage, etching another proud entry into the annals of chessboxing history and providing fitting inspiration for our upcoming show in London on November 28th.