Russian sports stars who died in crime sprees in the 90s: tragic fates that shocked the country

They did not sur­vive hard times, and many died young.

Many ath­letes went into crime in the 90s: box­ers became brute force ban­dits, and biath­letes and shoot­ers became killers. Some even man­aged to make their way into crime boss­es, but their lives end­ed trag­i­cal­ly.

Oleg Korotaev: boxer who hid from bandits in the USA

Oleg Koro­taev became a three-time cham­pi­on of the USSR, a win­ner of the Euro­pean and World Cham­pi­onships, but end­ed his sports career before the age of 30. Accord­ing to one ver­sion — for sys­tem­at­ic vio­la­tions of the regime and com­plex char­ac­ter. Accord­ing to anoth­er, because of a con­flict with the head coach of the USSR nation­al team and his asso­ciates.

After fin­ish­ing his career, Koro­taev went to prison for a fight with Igor Shch­e­lokov, the son of the head of the USSR Min­istry of Inter­nal Affairs. Dur­ing a search in the box­er’s apart­ment, pro­hib­it­ed sub­stances and weapons were found. Oleg denied the accu­sa­tions: he assured that he only drank alco­hol, and the weapons were cap­tured car­tridges and a Cuban machete knife, which Fidel Cas­tro gave him.

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Koro­taev served 5 years: he acquired con­nec­tions in the crim­i­nal world and became friends with the “thieves.” After his release, the box­er began to engage in ille­gal activ­i­ties and quick­ly became rich.

He became a crime boss and helped ath­letes: he gave 50 thou­sand dol­lars for treat­ment to box­er Sergei Arte­myev, who after a knock­out could remain dis­abled (the oper­a­tion was suc­cess­ful and saved the boxer’s health). Many “thieves” were con­sid­ered close to Koro­taev, includ­ing Vyach­eslav Ivankov, nick­named “Yaponchik”.

Koro­taev was repeat­ed­ly warned about the impend­ing assas­si­na­tion attempt, but he did not believe it. In 1992, the box­er real­ized that he was being fol­lowed and left for the Unit­ed States, where he became vice pres­i­dent of a trav­el com­pa­ny.

On Jan­u­ary 12, 1994, Koro­taev was shot in the back of the head on Brighton Beach (New York). The lux­u­ri­ous cof­fin with the body was deliv­ered to Moscow. The box­er was buried at the Vagankovskoye ceme­tery, where many ath­letes and crime boss­es came. The mur­der of Oleg Koro­taev remained unsolved — he was 44 years old.

Yuri Stupenkov: the “father” of Russian kickboxing, suspected of racketeering

Yuri Ste­penkov, a box­er from Novokuznet­sk, found­ed the first kick­box­ing league in Rus­sia. Before that, he was involved in box­ing and karate, which was banned in the USSR.

Yuri was nev­er in prison, but was on the police radar. He was con­sid­ered a well-known rack­e­teer, nick­named “The Doc­tor”. But law enforce­ment offi­cers did not have evi­dence to prove his ille­gal activ­i­ties.

Stepenkov (right) next to Chuck Norris

On Feb­ru­ary 7, 1994, Stu­penkov, who was an hon­ored coach and pres­i­dent of the KITEK pro­fes­sion­al kick­box­ing league, was shot dead with a Kalash­nikov assault rifle near his dacha in the Moscow region. The killer dropped his weapon at the crime scene, but was not caught.

Sergey Kobozev: the boxer conquered the USA, but died while working as a bouncer

Sergei Kobozev was a promis­ing box­er: at the age of 25 he quit ama­teur box­ing and went to the USA to con­quer the pro­fes­sion­al ring.

He per­formed well: 22 wins (18 by knock­out) and only one defeat. Among the van­quished was even future mul­ti­ple cham­pi­on John Ruiz.

On Octo­ber 24, 1995, Kobozev fought for the WBC belt with world heavy­weight cham­pi­on Marce­lo Fabi­an Dominguez. Sergei lost for the first time in his pro­fes­sion­al career — by split deci­sion. Two weeks after the bat­tle, on Novem­ber 8, 1995, Sergei died.

He worked as a bounc­er at the Russ­ian restau­rant Par­adise in New York. Late in the evening of Novem­ber 8, one of the vis­i­tors, a local Russ­ian ban­dit, drunk­en­ly pestered the musi­cians, hit the lead singer and broke his nose.

The own­er of the restau­rant and his friend, a crime boss, dragged Nosov into his office, where they beat him and “humil­i­at­ed him in every pos­si­ble way.” Kobozev did not par­tic­i­pate, but sim­ply kicked the beat­en ban­dit out of the estab­lish­ment.

A few days lat­er, Kobozev was attacked in a car repair shop, where Sergei went to have his car repaired. The box­er fought back, so he was shot and his body was buried.

The ban­dits received life sen­tences in an Amer­i­can court. They reg­u­lar­ly sub­mit peti­tions for clemen­cy, which are reject­ed. After all, they were respon­si­ble not only for mur­ders, but also for a num­ber of rob­beries and extor­tions.

Otari Kvantrishvili: wrestler-authority with whom Joseph Kobzon communicated

Otari Kvantr­ishvili was a mas­ter of sports of the USSR in Gre­co-Roman wrestling, a famous coach, and pres­i­dent of the Lev Yashin Ath­letes Pro­tec­tion Fund.

As a young man, he served time for gang rape. After that, he began to engage in crime when he was free. In the future, he will become the pro­to­type of crime boss­es in TV series (“Gang­ster Peters­burg”, “Mole”, “Dron­go”).

Kvantrishvili with Kobzon (the singer will come to his funeral)

Dur­ing the years of per­e­stroi­ka, Kvantr­ishvili legal­ized busi­ness: he invest­ed in hotels, alco­hol fac­to­ries, wood­work­ing enter­pris­es, and oil fields. But law enforce­ment offi­cers were sure that he was an author­i­ta­tive mafioso who would be dif­fi­cult to imprison due to his con­nec­tions with high-rank­ing offi­cials.

On April 5, 1994, Kvantr­ishvili was killed in Moscow, at the exit from the Krasno­pres­nen­sky baths, with three shots from a small-cal­iber rifle with an opti­cal sight.

Alex­ey Sher­sto­bitov (Lesha Sol­dat) was found guilty. The killer is still in prison on charges of 12 con­tract killings. The cus­tomer was con­sid­ered to be the author­i­ty Sergei Tim­o­feev (Sylvester), who was also killed — in Sep­tem­ber 1994.