March 2015 Season Opener – Report

– Terry Marsh back in the ring
– Sergio Leveque defends his WCBA Heavyweight title
– Steve ‘The Demon’ Philp and Richard ‘The Razor’ Frazer in a roller coaster battle
– New chessboxing talents emerge

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Danny Bent vs Henry
Blanchard

The Chessboxing season started with a great showcase of fights. Kicking off the evening newcomers Danny Bent and Henry Blanchard treated us to seven rounds of catch-weight chessboxing beauty. Blanchard took charge on the chessboard right from the start, while Bent’s superior movement and hand-speed caught the eye in the intervening rounds of boxing.

Unfortunately Bent could not match his speed around the ring when he returned to the chessboard, where his occasionally lengthy contemplation of a fierce middle-game battle meant he fell behind his opponent on the clock with inevitable consequences. Blanchard triumphed by time-penalty.

It was a great debut fight and both combatants have expressed a desire for a quick rematch, which could happen later this year. We look forward to another Ali-style pre-fight interview from Blanchard, where he displayed an instinctive grasp of chessboxing showmanship.  Was Bent’s fate sealed before he even stepped in the ring? Judge for yourself here. “The Blanchard Tape”, as we’re calling it, is playing on a loop at London Chessboxing HQ and we still haven’t grown tired of it, “Back Row – Queen – Rook – Boom!!” Classic stuff.

 

Steve ‘The Demon’ Philp vs Richard ‘The Razor’ Frazer

What a fight! We knew from experience these two warriors would put in a great performance, but the reality exceeded all expectation. This was a bout that delivered pure spectacle from start to finish.  Evenly matched in the chess and boxing and with plenty of chessboxing know-how in both camps there was little to separate the two men in the run up to the fight. Both had prepared intensely. The Razor spent the preceding months training in the harsh desert landscape of Morocco (in between his day job working as a CGI consultant on a production).  Philp meanwhile was training through the chilly, rain-swept winter months in the English West country.  Contrasting environments but similar commitment; both men stepped into the ring in peak condition.

In the chess both played aggressively and fast right from the start. After the first round they were 12 moves in, with Philp (playing White) having castled queenside, yet doubled pawns on the c file, while Frazer tried to control the centre of the board positioning his Queen on d4. The aggression and fast pace was also evident in the boxing rounds. Philp managed to get Frazer onto the ropes several times and landed some hard shots. As the bout progressed Philp seemed to be gaining the upper hand. In round 4 he landed a hard blow to the side of Frazer’s head leading to a standing eight count. The fight continued over the board and Philp was now gaining a material advantage. 24 moves in a risky Queen exchange had let to Frazer going a rook down. By move 36 (Round 7) Frazer found himself attacked by double Rooks with little room to escape and the clock against him.  Showing all his guile and determination he managed to hang on for another round of boxing, where he upped the speed and power and landed a left-hook to the body that that momentarily left Philp on his knees. Philp now needed to get the fight back to the chessboard, where clock time was on his side, while Frazer had to make the last round of boxing count. The fight continued with both chessboxers giving their all cheered on by a crowd fully appreciative of the drama on display. Frazer absorbed a powerful right then immediately countered with two hard left-hooks which thudded into the body of his opponent and forced to the canvas once again. The referee had seen enough and called a TKO against Philp leaving Frazer exultant. The crowd duly saluted both fighters for a great performance that easily ranks among the finest chessboxing bouts on record.

 

Sergio “The Phoenix” Leveque (ITA) V Dmitry Pechurin (RUS) (Heavyweight) 

The highly experienced Italian champion Leveque knows his way around the chessboxing arena and until now has shown every sign of clinging to his World ChessBoxing Association European Heavyweight title for many years to come.  His opponent this time was Dmitry Pechurin, a raw but tough heavyweight from Moscow, who arrived in London with bags of heart and abundant power in both hands. Both men clearly wanted to put on a good performance in front of our well-versed London Chessboxing audience.

Leveque having the advantage of playing White, opted for the Vienna opening, with Dmitry confidently defending against it. The first round of chess and then following round of boxing were clearly to feel each other out and develop a strategy for the fight. From then on Sergio slowly started to take control on the chessboard while adopting a defensive and awkward strategy to frustrate his opponent’s direct approach with the gloves. Leveque tried referee Reinaldo Dominguez’s patience on occasion by repeatedly hugging his opponent in the clinches, but managing to stay just on the right side of an official warning.  He was also dangerous on the counter with a lightning quick straight right bomb that meant Pechurin could never settle into a rhythm. In the end Leveque’s game plan came to fruition on the chessboard with a seventh round checkmate.  An efficient victory that enabled the proud Italian to declare himself “still!” WCBA European Heavyweight Chessboxing Champion.

 

Terry Marsh vs Antonio Montana

This fight was sponsored by 4D Pharma Plc

Montana was a more than worthy replacement for Filippo Gubbini, who had to pull out of the fight on short notice due to a cracked rib.  Montana learned to play chess with his brother and continued to enjoy the game when he turned to boxing.

His opponent was the wily former IBF Light-Welterweight Champion Terry Marsh – making his second appearance for London Chessboxing following victory over Chris Powell in 2014.   Marsh stormed into and early lead on chessboard as the debutante Montana took time to find his feet. Sensing opportunity, Marsh decided to move out his Queen very early and by winning a Rook establishing a powerful position.

But once Montana took the speed out of the chess, he began to close the gap on his veteran opponent. The technical brilliance displayed by both fighters was clear to see, although both fighters appeared to have a plenty in reserve as the fight progressed.  Perhaps taking the fight at short notice meant Montana felt apprehensive about going all out for victory, or perhaps the presence of the great champion Marsh in the ring instilled too great a sense of respect. Although the bout did not have the blood and thunder of previous fights, it more than compensated with sheer entertainment and artistry. In the end Marsh ran out the winner by time penalty while holding a commanding position on the chessboard.

 

As a final footnote, our more observant chessboxing followers will have noticed that the scheduled debut fight of Romania’s Ion Citu had to be postponed. This was due to his opponent having to pull out at short notice with injury.  We hope to reschedule this bout in 2015, and it will be a fascinating one to watch.  Citu, at 88kg a natural light-heavyweight, showed us in training he is an unorthodox, yet formidable opponent who promises to deliver a highly entertaining and competitive performance.