Anthony Small has allegedly gone from fighting as a light middleweight boxer in Great Britain to attempting to fight for the extremist militant group ISIS.
Authorities arrested the one-time champion last year and accused him of trying to travel to Syria and join with ISIS fighters. Small was nabbed along with Michael Coe and Simon Keeler last year and accused of trying to help jihadists leave the United Kingdom and travel to Syria.
Small is also accused of distributing terrorist publications, publishing an article titled “Attacks By Muslims In Perspective,” and giving a speech titled “Another James Foley beheading.”
The trial for Anthony Small began this week, with prosecutors saying he was trying to join ISIS as well.
“The prosecution’s case is they intended to travel to Syria to join and support what is called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, known as ISIL or ISIS,” prosecutor Richard Whittam said in his opening statement of the trial, (via BBC News).
Small converted to Islam at age 24 and gradually became more radical in his beliefs. He turned into an outspoken supporter of ISIS and even said last year that the group’s execution and beheading of American journalists “[were not] unprovoked.”
Prosecutors said that Anthony Small took his support of ISIS to Europe as well. He attended demonstrations over the banning of niqabs in France and began speaking out to support a “universal Muslim state founded on Sharia law.”
The United Kingdom has been seen as a hotbed of ISIS sympathy, with hundreds of British residents suspected of leaving to join the militant group in Iraq and Syria.
Anthony Small’s alleged attempt to join ISIS has parallels to another notorious boxer. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a promising amateur boxer in Massachusetts, winning the regional Golden Gloves tournament and winning the Rocky Marciano Trophy when he began to take on more radical beliefs.
Sports on Earth noted, “That may have been the pivot that changed the trajectory of his life. Tsarnaev drifted away from the boxing ring and into something else, something dark. Travel records indicate that he left the U.S. in January 2012 and took a flight to Sheretmetyevo International Airport in Russia. He returned in July, sporting a beard.”
It was those radical beliefs that eventually led Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar, to plant bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, killing two and injuring hundreds of others.
In the UK, Anthony Small said he was not trying to join ISIS and maintains his innocence in the smuggling charges.
[Image via Getty Images/John Gichigi]