Prominent American sportsman Roy Jones Junior had his wish for a Russian passport come true, as Vladimir Putin granted citizenship to the champion of four weight classes, who was once called the world’s best boxer.
A decree granting citizenship to Jones, a former Olympic silver medalist and winner of multiple world championship titles, was signed by Vladimir Putin and then officially published on the Kremlin’s website on Saturday.
Putin and Jones met in Crimea in August, where the latter had come to be a guest on a boxing TV show., Jones brought up the matter during friendly talk over a cup of tea.
He said that it would be a win-win situation: the citizenship would be good for him and his business in Russia, and thus allow it to make a valuable contribution to the country’s economy.
When Putin warned Jones that he would have to spend much of his life in Russia, he said that he was hoping sport would “build a bridge” between the two countries, according to Associated Press.
The boxing champion plans to start learning Russian and speak it fluently in just a year:
“I want to speak so well in Russian that people understand me without any problems,” Jones said. “I think that’ll take about a year. I hope that next year I’ll already be speaking like a Russian,” Russian news agency R-Sport reports.
He also admitted that he didn’t feel as appreciated back home in the USA as he did in Russia:
“After my arrival in Russia, I saw that there is a large community of boxers,” he said in another interview to Gazeta.ru.
“I also felt appreciated in Russia. Maybe even a lot more than I was valued and appreciated in my own country.”
As for his plans for the future, Jones wants to open boxing schools in Russia and dedicate himself to music.
Jones is not the first celebrity who has fallen in love with Russia and asked for citizenship.
French actor Gerard Depardieu, an ardent supporter of Putin and his policies, was granted a Russian passport in 2013. He is now a registered resident of the Russian city of Saransk.
Fred Durst, front-man of the US music band Limp Bizkit, which is currently on tour in Russia, is also thinking about obtaining Russian citizenship and buying a house somewhere in Russia, he said in an interview with the Rock FM radio station.