Tamerlan Tsarnaev possessed quick feet atypical of a boxer fighting in the 201-pound weight class. His strength and toughness were in the same mold as other Russian heavyweight boxers.
Tsarnaev had potential in the ring, said longtime trainer Jesse Ravelo, a retired sergeant first class and owner of JR Boxing Club in Killeen, but it is to something more sinister that he will forever be linked.
Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, allegedly planted the two bombs that killed three and injured more than 260 at the Boston Marathon on April 15.
Ravelo, who trained the U.S. men’s boxing team in the 1996 and 2012 Olympics, saw Tamerlan Tsarnaev compete at the National Golden Gloves boxing tournament in Salt Lake City in May 2009.
Ravelo was intrigued with the Russian boxer’s blend of speed and toughness, but lost interest when he discovered Tsarnaev was not a U.S. citizen and therefore unable to compete with the Americans on an international stage.
“Being with the (United States) national team at the time, you’re always looking at somebody, hoping some day you can work with them or bring him in or (as) a potential fighter for the U.S.A., but (Tsarnaev’s trainer) told me he wasn’t a citizen and he didn’t think he was going to get a citizenship,” Ravelo said.
“That’s the last time I really focused on him.”
Tamerlan Tsarnaev died April 19 in an early-morning gunfight with police.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested later that night and charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told authorities his brother recruited him to help carry out the attack that detonated two homemade, pressure-cooker bombs at the finish line of the marathon.
“Personally, I never talked to him or anything like that, didn’t associate with him because he was not part of the national team, even though he could’ve been,” Ravelo said of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. “From what I saw in Salt Lake, he was pretty strong. He had good potential to be something. His coach was telling me he didn’t have that much experience, I said, ‘Wow, for not having that much experience, he looks like a seasoned fighter.’”
USA Boxing spokeswoman Julie Goldsticker told the Associated Press that Tamerlan Tsarnaev registered with the group as an amateur boxer from 2003 to 2004, and again from 2008 to 2010. At the National Golden Gloves, he lost his only bout.
When media released the first images of the marathon bombing suspects, Ravelo said he recognized the brothers, but could not place where he knew them. He finally made the connection when information regarding Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s boxing history emerged.
“I saw him fight a few times and knew he was pretty good, pretty strong guy, had a lot of potential if he would’ve stayed with it,” Ravelo said. “It’s amazing to know somebody who does something like that. That’s why I always say, you don’t know who’s who. ... It really freaked me out.”