What Do Boxing and Chess Have In Common?

Chess and boxing seem as bizarre a pairing as anything, but they do have something in common. One is a duel often characterized by cruelty, ruthlessness and violence, and the other is much the same. Today, former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis is more likely to be seen hunched over the chess board than in the boxing ring. Yet, the very idea that boxers might play chess, and vice versa, strikes many people as strange. Chess after all, is the ultimate cerebral sport, while boxing is nakedly brutal. Lewis says when his chess opponents discover he used to box, they're convinced they'll whip him. "And when I beat them, they're upset," he said. Lewis isn’t the only chess-playing boxer. Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, who holds a PhD, is another boxing champion who is also a keen chess player. The weirdness of combining boxing and chess - brain and brawn - has been used to attract spectators to a new sport: "chess boxing." It sounds like something from Alice in Wonderland, but it has really caught on. In chess boxing the two combatants have alternating rounds of chess and boxing. Victory is achieved in several ways, but most clearly by a checkmate or a knockout. After trying to bash and bruise each other around the face and body, the opponents remove a single glove and continue the duel, sweating and panting, over the 64 squares. Lennox Lewis plays chess almost daily and credits the game with keeping him out of trouble during his tough upbringing in east London. "When someone calls you a name, you want to punch them out… but chess teaches you to think through the next moves.”