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A true battle of brain and brawn has Edmonton man in international ring


Later this month, an Edmonton man is stepping into the international ring of a unique combination sport.

In the boxing ring, the battle isn’t limited to the brawn, the brains are just as important.

The sport is called chess boxing, you start in the ring with a three-minute chess game. The board is then taken away. The boxers lace up their gloves and go toe to toe.

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“The fight can end in checkmate, time penalty disqualification in chess, or referee stoppage, or knockout for boxing,” explained Davary-Diaz.


Zabih Davary-Diaz trains for an upcoming international competition in chess boxing.


Jaclyn Kucey, Global News

Chess boxing is inspired by a comic, and it was brought to life in the early 2000s by Iepe Rubingh.

It caught Davary-Diaz’ eye two years ago and then he was hooked.

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“Maybe you’re losing in chess, well now it’s on you to try to get something going in the boxing,” said Davary-Diaz. “Either hurt your opponent enough that their focus is completely off the game or finish them so that you can win yourself.”

He’s getting ready to step into the international ring in Kolkata, India.


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“Whether it’s chess boxing or boxing, it’s about the most physically demanding sport in the world,” said Gasper Bonomo, his boxing coach. “Not only do you have to be in shape to go to 12 rounds, you’ve got to be in shape to take the punching too.”

“You have to dedicate daily time to both chess and boxing, you have to test yourself at points when you’re tired and play chess,” said Davary-Diaz.

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The 32-year-old plays the board about 70 times a week and hits the bags at Kamikaze Punishment Foundation four to five times a week.

“Had I gone to any other gym and explained chess boxing, I probably would have been laughed out of the building, but I was given a shot here and I’m forever grateful for that,” said Davary-Diaz.

Even though boxing is more physical, Dustin Koperski, his chess coach, pointed out there are similarities in strategies.

Referencing Mike Tyson “everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.”

“In boxing you want to control the centre of the ring; in chess you want to control the centre of the board,” said Koperski. “If you’re scared of your opponent, you’re going to perform worse and you’re going to choke up, and the same thing happens in chess.”

Right now, the sport is most popular in Asia and Europe.

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“Slowly, we’re building the sport here at home,” said Davary-Diaz.

Last year, he and Koperski hosted the Canada’s inaugural chess boxing competition in Edmonton.

Only 12 fighters were on the card.

He hopes to see it Edmonton make history as the first host for a female bout in chess boxing in Canada.

“I think the sport will catch up, people won’t see it as a gimmick, they’ll see it as an opportunity for growth as both mind and body and hopefully we can all celebrate that and one day in the Olympics have a team that’s very successful,” said Davary-Diaz.

The Olympics isn’t too far-fetched for the sport. There is already an Olympic exhibit of the sport at the summer games in Paris, with hopes it will eventually become an official Olympic event.

For right now, he’s focused on his next jab in India, where there are three different types of competition.

Chess boxing fit: Hitting a bag as fast as possible while still keeping focus in a chess match.

Chess boxing lite: A boxing-focused match where the more technical fighter will win despite the chess result.

Then, classic chess boxing.

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“I’m going in there to enjoy the experience being the first Canadian to compete in this particular tournament,” said Davary-Diaz. “I’m going to relish in that fact.”

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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