Former Sheffield teacher and chess playing MEP dons boxing gloves for charity

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A North East political heavyweight is set to step into the ring at London’s famous boxing venue, the York Hall, to become a heavyweight of another kind next month.

Chess playing MEP Jonathan Arnott will be punching above his weight - literally - when he swaps the chequered board for boxing gloves in a charity double whammy seeking to raise money for the Ally Cadence Trust for Spinal Muscular Atrophy (ACT for SMA).

Former Sheffield teacher, Jonathan, is raising money for the charity after a friend and colleague sadly lost their baby daughter to the condition in October.

In what promoters describe as ‘a headline bout with political clout’, it will be UKIP versus Lib Dem as Jonathan Arnott faces Toby ‘Slowby’ White of the Liberal Democrats, a veteran of two previous contests.

The event is organised by the London Chessboxing Association. It involves three minute rounds of chess followed by two minutes of boxing. Chess and boxing rounds alternate until there is a winner. Competitors can either knock their opponents out by checkmate on the board, or more fittingly by a knockout in the boxing ring. If neither checkmate nor knockout occurs, then the end result of the bout is determined by the judges’ scorecards.

The UKIP hard-hitter is determined not to be out for the count in either of the skills - which will challenge his abilities against the clock both in and out of the ring. In a blow-by-blow account he makes it clear that in both capacities as a talented chess player and a novice boxer he is aiming for a knock-out.

“Nobody would ever have expected someone like me to take part in a boxing match, so I’m hoping that will encourage plenty of people to donate to raise money for this worthy charity. According to my sparring partners, I’m hard to hit in the ring - just like in politics where my opponents struggle to lay a glove on me. I pack a powerful punch, which will eventually break my opponent’s resolve.

“But I think I’ll beat him at chess before I manage to knock him out in the boxing ring, so I’m predicting that my knockout blow will come by checkmate in the fifth round.” said Jonathan.

36-year-old Jonathan has previously competed in international chess tournaments but has only relatively recently turned to sparring in the gym to get fit. “It certainly makes a change from my regular travels to Brussels and Strasbourg representing my North East constituents - which is a challenge of a different sort.

“These chessboxing events usually attract about 750 people but fortunately I am used to appearing in front of large audiences, and if it raises money for charity then it will definitely be worth it. With just a few weeks to go until the event, I’ll definitely be stepping up my training regime to make sure I’m in great shape.” said Jonathan, who is also UKIP’s General Secretary and Constitutional Affairs spokesman.

As well as chess he is a talented player of the board game Stratego and has represented Great Britain at the game’s World Championships.

The bout will headline the “Pity the Fool” bill on April 1st at London’s York Hall, but Jonathan is adamant that this is no joke. “I want to make a difference for a fantastic charity, and what better way than this?

“Playing chess is a great way to train your mind, and boxing is not only fantastic for fitness but so many young people’s lives are changed for the better by the disciplined training that it offers,” he said.

Jonathan enrolled at the University of Sheffield, aged just 15, having gained his ‘A’ levels three years early, leaving after having attained a Masters in Mathematics.

He went on to become head of mathematics at a school in Sheffield before entering politics. He is married and lives in Guisborough near Middlesbrough.