The Salem News
---- — What a small world we live in.
Jon Blodgett Jr. finds it hard to believe that he once was in the ring with one of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers.
Ten years ago, Blodgett fought Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the New England Boxing Championships at Good Times Arcade in Somerville. He had never seen him before that amateur fight and never got in the ring with him again. But what a shock it was when he heard the names of the brothers who are accused of doing the bombings.
“I remembered the name because it was so unusual,” said the former Peabody High baseball and football star, who is now a juvenile probation officer and also helps train young fighters at Jack Dullea’s Gym in Peabody. “It is surreal to think anybody can rub shoulders with a person capable of doing something so horrific.
“That Friday morning (after the gunfight in Watertown that left Tamerlan dead and a huge manhunt underway for his younger brother) I was getting ready for work and recognized the last name,” added Blodgett. “At first I wondered if it might be a relative, but by the time I got to work I had heard his first name. I couldn’t believe it was the same person I had fought.
“After the fight we exchanged a few words, and his trainer said we would probably meet again. We never did, even though the amateur boxing circuit in New England is so small your names cross paths often. He went on to do quite well, but in light of the acts he committed I don’t want to give him credit for anything.”
The New England championships are held in the fall leading up to the Golden Gloves in January. Blodgett and Tsarnaev met in the finals of the 178-pound Novice Class. Blodgett was trained by Dullea and had not seen the Russian fight the previous week. He stunned Tsarnaev in the first round (amateur fights go three rounds) with a solid body punch.
“I remember he was tall and big for that weight class,” said Blodgett. “He was a typical stand-up straight European-style boxer, while I was a bob-and-weave pressure fighter. I was always a body puncher and I hurt him in the first round. He got a standing eight count, but was able to continue.
“I had to set a fast pace and work to get inside, but at the beginning of the second round he cut me on the bridge of my nose as I was coming in. They stopped the fight at the end of that round due to the cut, and he got a technical decision.”
In a professional bout the cut man would have been able to stop the bleeding, allowing the fight to continue, but that doesn’t happen in amateur bouts. Blodgett had an outstanding eight-year career, going to the Golden Glove finals twice as well as the Rocky Marciano and New England championships.
“Unfortunately, the sport is losing some of its popularity in America because the road to success is a lot longer than in other sports,” said Blodgett, who is 33-years old. “Boxing’s a great sport, but it requires a lot of self discipline and training.”
Jon Crimble is doing it all for the Salem High track team. The junior was undefeated in the first four meets of the season, winning four events in each. He was unbeatable in the 400, long jump, and triple jump in a meet loss to Peabody earlier this week.
A versatile athlete, he is outstanding in several events including long jump, triple jump, 100, 200, and 400s. Crimble is also a very good student and Lehigh, UMass-Amherst or one of the NESCAC schools are high on his list.
“I think his two strongest events are the 200 meter and long jump,” said coach Gary Lavoie. “However, Jon does well in all events. He can hurdle, throw the discus, javelin and shot put, high jump and even run distance. We’ve moved him around from the 100 to 200 and 400 this year.
“He is a very hard worker and great competitor. He wants very much to win. We’re also fortunate to have Aaron Palmer, another junior, who is a well-rounded athlete like Crimble. All Aaron’s second place finishes are to Jon. He is a hurdler with great speed and strength and is also having an excellent season.”
Lavoie said the Witches will count on both Crimble and Palmer to score a lot of points the rest of the way and do well in the season-ending decathlon, where he predicts both will shine at the college level.
Nolan Raimo was a track star at Marblehead High and is now coming into his own as a freshman at Williams College. Raimo finished second at the All-NESCAC Meet with his personal best long jump of the season (22 feet-5 inches). He was also a member of the 4x100 relay team and turned in a gritty performance in the 100 meter, where he had to jog to the finish line because of an injury.
“I tweaked my hamstring on my final long jump, but had qualified in the 100,” said Raimo. “I ran 11.24 in the trials and was the last qualifier for the finals. I had to cross the finish line in order to get a point for my team. I couldn’t run, so I had to jog.”
Raimo said one of the reasons he wanted to compete at Williams was because of legendary decathlon coach Fletcher Brooks, who left to go to the University of Oklahoma right before Raimo arrived.
“His reputation is unmatched, and I’m disappointed I won’t have the opportunity to learn from him,” said Raimo, who is on track to pursue a double major in political economy with a concentration in leadership studies.
“I set a goal to make the nationals this spring, and I’m very close in the long jump. In Division 3 they take the top 22 kids. I still have the New England’s at Colby and then the All New Englands to do it. “I think my hamstring will be fine and I’ll be able to make both meets.”
Jean DePlacido is a longtime correspondent for The Salem News. You can contact her at email@example.com.