This Saturday, chess-boxing moves to Paris for the second edition of the Intellectual Fight Club. This sport, born almost 20 years ago but still little known in France, nevertheless has great ambitions.
Between 600 and 700 people are expected this Saturday at Cabaret Sauvage in Paris for Intellectual Fight Club 2.It’s greatsays Guillaume Salançon, president of the French chess and boxing federation. We are very happy.After a first edition in 2019, the IFC had to wait three years -Covid forces- to return to France.
Eight chess-boxing matches are on the program. “A sport invented by two artists, (Enki Bilal and the late Dutchman Iepe Rubringh) to find the perfect sportGuillaume Salançon blows. “Chess is above all an ideaexplains Carl Strugnell, chess player. Even before its creation, it was an idea waiting to be discovered. Like the United States. They were always there, just waiting to be discovered..”
“A meeting between two worlds”
Specifically, chessboxing, which has no term in French, mixes chess and boxing. Eleven rounds in total, starting with chess and alternating between the two disciplines. Each round lasts three minutes, with one minute of rest/preparation between two rounds. Often described as the alliance of body and mind, chess-boxing is much more. “Tell “it’s body and soul”, is the first gateway to this sport. But boxing chess is much more than that.“, proclaims loud and clear the president of the federation. A doctrine that supports Carl Strugnell, who competes this Saturday for the title of world champion in less than 85 kilos. “I hate when people say it’s body and mind! It is a simplification and it is reducing our sport..”
When I find out about the existence of this sport, I have the impression that it is the good God who has done everything for me to be his prophet.
“Biathlon is very similar to what we do, because there is a great physical effort and then a test of concentration.says Guillaume Salançon, an entrepreneur in everyday life. Chess boxing is a great physical effort and then reflection. The goal of chessboxing is to play chess under pressure, after taking hits, with your heart beating at 180.” A sport “ultra strategic“, according to the 47-year-old leader, who addresses everyone.
“This sport is above all a meeting between two worldsthe president of the FFC testifies. Chess players are first chess players or boxers, and then they make a considerable effort to know the other world. The boxer has to get up on Sunday morning to be beaten by chess-loving eleven-year-olds. And vice versa. The chess player, fragile and geek, will train in boxing and take blows.” Fighters from all walks of life come together in this sport. “The French team that I brought to the world championships was very heterogeneous.adds Guillaume Salançon. There were as many engineers as players from the suburbs or who did stupid things in their youth. Some are masons, educators, temporary workers and they transcend themselves to be in the world championships.»
We want to get boxing and chess out of their clichés. Let’s put on an amazing show
Atypical professional trajectories as evidenced by Carl Strugnell, a 41-year-old fighter. “I was living in Los Angeles when the sport was created and I had no more money.explains the Welshman who speaks perfect French. I slept in my car and made a living playing chess in the parks and gambling on games. I was forced to shower at the local boxing club. So when I find out about the existence of this sport, I have the impression that it is the good God who has done everything for me to be the prophet of it.smiles Carl Strugnell, introduced as a legend of his sport. “I’m a demigod in the field! I put all my ego into this sport so that in the rest of my life I will be a good guy.»
Four fights and two titles in the game
This Saturday, Carl Strugnell, who now lives in Serbia with his partner, will fight for Wales, because “the flag has a mouth“. Four fights are scheduled at Cabaret Sauvage. During this evening two titles will be awarded. A French champion title in -80 kg, followed by a world champion coronation in -85 kg. “We want to get boxing and chess out of their clichés. Let’s put on an amazing show promises Guillaume Salançon. We want a hyper-calibrated American-style show. This IFC is very important, if we want to develop it further.On the programme: sports of course, but also music and dance, assures the French leader.
For his part, Carl Strugnell, who does not make the world title an obsession, has adapted his preparation for this fight against the 26-year-old Frenchman, Jules-Alois Julien. “For this fight I abused caffeine and energy drinks during my preparationThe 41-year-old Welshman blows. I smoked several cigarettes and went out to play chess under stress. He was at the edge of the limits. For boxing, instead, I did a classic training.“A night that should bring many others, even if the leaders dream big.
This second IFC should bring others and allow the sport to develop, to create a league and a ranking of fighters. This sport, still little known in France, already has 15 federations in the world. And it intends to develop at high speed. Chessboxing, which could soon hit the small screen, first wants “become part of the sports landscape, become an established sport, with a real league and a real audienceexplains Guillaume Salançon.
However, the one who has been president of the federation for three years dreams big. “Our goal is to go to the Olympics. We want to be an Olympic sport.If it’s too late for 2024, 2032 is on your mind.
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