Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who was shot dead in a gunfight with police last night, may have once been an amateur boxer with Olympic aspirations.
Photographer Johannes Hirn took a number of shots of a young man by the name of Tamerlan Tsarnaev -- who appears to be the same Tamerlan Tsarnaev in today's headlines -- several years ago for a photo essay called “Will Box For Passport” (disclaimer: this reporter went to graduate school with Hirn). It has not been confirmed that the Tsarnaev in the photo essay is the suspect.
Tsarnaev, a refugee from Chechnya, was training for a national Golden Gloves competition and had taken a semester off from Bunker Hill Community College.
“If he wins enough fights there, Tamerlan says he could be selected for the U.S. Olympic team and be naturalized American,” Hirn wrote. “Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says, he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia.”
In an interview at the time, Tsarnaev described himself as a Muslim who does not drink or smoke. At the time, Tsarnaev also had a girlfriend, half-Italian, half-Portuguese, who converted to Islam. He said he had no American friends because he couldn't understand them.
“There are no values anymore,” he told Hirn; “People can’t control themselves.”
UPDATE 11:24 AM: Boston CBS affiliate WBZ-TV spoke with Tsarnaev's former mixed martial arts instructor, Mark Massey.
"He’s not the guy I used to know,” Massey told WBZ. "[I’m] shocked just like everybody else.”