Portland Boxing Club owner and trainer Bob Russo met Tamerlan Tsarnaev briefly, four years ago. He didn’t think about him again until the phone calls started coming Friday morning.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two Boston Marathon bombing suspects, was the heavyweight fighter on the 2009 Golden Gloves amateur boxing team representing New England at the national tournament in Salt Lake City. Russo was its head coach. Russell Lamour, a Deering High graduate and Portland Boxing Club fighter, was the team’s light heavyweight.
‘I didn’t make any connection,” said Russo, when he first saw the photo released by the FBI on Thursday. When Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s name was attached to the first suspect, identified by law enforcement as a man in a black baseball-style hat, Russo knew.
“It absolutely came out of the blue. There was nothing about this guy that said he would (someday be a suspect),” Russo said.
Lamour, now a pro fighter, also didn’t make the connection at first. A phone call from another boxer on the 2009 team on Friday morning helped him. “I went back and looked at the photo. Oh my God, that looks like him,” Lamour said.
Russo and Lamour had limited interaction with Tsarnaev while they were in Salt Lake City. Tsarnaev’s coach from the South Boston Boxing Club was on the trip and worked with his fighter, who lost early in the tournament.
Lamour and a few other teammates asked Tsarnaev to join them in leaving the hotel and getting something to eat. Tsarnaev declined.
“He was very quiet, very humble,” said Russo, now the director of New England Golden Gloves boxing. “I don’t think he had a good handle on the language.”
“We were on the same team,” said Lamour. “That’s it. I really didn’t talk much to the guy.”