By Ryan Maquinana
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the alleged Boston Marathon bomber who was killed Thursday night, was once an amateur boxer who represented the New England regional team as a 201-pound heavyweight in the National Golden Gloves.
BoxingScene.com/CSNBayArea.com spoke to two of his teammates who participated with Tsarnaev during that tournament, as well as a third boxer who interacted with Tsarnaev when he trained at the Boston Boxing & Fitness gym in Brighton, Mass.
“Honestly, to tell you the truth, I’m still shocked by it,” said Russell Lamour Jr., who traveled with Tsarnaev to Salt Lake City for the Golden Gloves in 2009. “I haven’t seen him in years, but I just didn’t think that he would do that. You don’t know what people—what they’ll do or what they’re capable of [doing].”
“We never had a problem. He was kind of cocky a little bit, but nothing bad. He kind of kept to himself a lot, but I never saw anything that made me think, ‘He’s bad,’ or anything.
In order to prepare for the National Golden Gloves, Tsarnaev reportedly took a leave of absence from his engineering studies at Boston’s Bunker Hill Community College. According to all accounts, Tsarnaev, who came to the U.S. in 2003 from his native Chechnya, was a pressure fighter who relied on brute strength to overpower his opponents given his lack of experience.
“He was more will than skill,” said undefeated pro Toka Kahn Clary, another of his 2009 teammates. “He would wing that big right hand all day on people and he would keep catching them. It was kind of a surprise when he won the New England Golden Gloves to make it on the team to go to Nationals."
"He was quiet. He didn’t say much. We would go out after the fights in Salt Lake City, I believe it was. We went out to the mall and stuff, and he wouldn’t come. He’d just stay in his room. I didn’t think he would go out like that. I remember he was still working on his English, and he had a heavy accent…He never really talked about how he felt [about America] or anything like that.”
Kahn Clary and Lamour’s respective recollections are news to Tommy Duquette, who trained alongside Tsarnaev before the New England regional Golden Gloves tournament in early 2009. Duquette told a much different story.
“He was a weirdo,” said Duquette. “He got kicked out of my gym by the trainers after only a week because he was a maniac.”
Duquette clarified his characterization of Tsarnaev’s conduct during his brief stint at the Boston Boxing & Fitness Gym.
“[It’s] not like a maniac where you’re like, all right, ‘He’s going to blow up the [Boston] Marathon,’ but a maniac where he’s like a pain in the ass out in the gym,” Duquette said. “It’s crazy. He was asking everybody to spar, not wearing headgear, [and] not listening to instructions.”
Duquette, who won the U.S. National Championships silver medal as a light welterweight in 2011, remembered one particular instance in general.
“He wouldn’t talk to anybody except when he wanted to spar with you,” Duquette said. “I was around 132 pounds at the time and he came up to me once and asked me to spar with him, and he was 201 [pounds].
“I had respect for him though. He could fight. He had that awkward pressure, kind of like a [Ricardo] Mayorga. He just kind of made that work for him.”
The particulars behind what transpired between 2009 and today are still unclear to Duquette, whose hometown of Waltham, Mass., is adjacent to Watertown, where FBI agents, snipers, and SWAT teams have now inundated the city.
The 26-year-old Tsarnaev and his brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, have been the subject of a manhunt after authorities identified them as the prime suspects in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings that have killed three and wounded more than 180 others. Tamerlan, who was seen in surveillance footage in a black baseball cap, was killed Thursday night in a shootout with law enforcement. Dzhokhar was captured on Friday night and suffered undisclosed injuries after a standoff with police.
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.