Former world champion boxer Roy Jones Jr. has been granted Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin in hopes that sports can help "build a bridge" between the two countries.
The former Olympic silver medalist received the
citizenship after he met with Putin in Crimea during an August visit, reported RT.com
. Jones said the move would be a boon to his business dealings in Russia.
The boxer first sought a Russian passport two years ago, the news agency R-Sport said, according to The Associated Press
. Putin told Jones he wouldn't have a problem getting a Russian passport if he would spend a significant part of his life in Russia.
"I want to speak so well in Russian that people understand me without any problems," Jones told R-Sport. "I think that'll take about a year. I hope that next year I'll already be speaking like a Russian."
Jones, 46, said part of his business dealings in the country would include opening boxing schools there and training Russian boxers like Fedor Chudinov, said Bleacher Report.
Jones, who has been a world champion boxer in four different weight classes, has not left the ring himself, boxing in the cruiserweight division, said the Washington Post
. Last month, he defeated Eric Watkins to improve his overall professional record to 62-8.
He lost in the gold medal bout of the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games in a 3-2 decision to South Korea Park Si-Hun in a controversial decision, said his website
After conquering the International Boxing Federation super-middleweight division to become champion, he bulked up and won the World Boxing Council's light-heavyweight title in 1996, defeating Mike McCallum, becoming the first former middleweight champion to ever win a heavyweight title, according to Biography.com
The Boxing Writers Association of America named Jones the "Fighter of the Decade" in the late 1990's.
Then Jones moved up in rank again to win the World Boxing Association's heavyweight crown by beating John Ruiz in 2003. He was only the second light-heavyweight boxer to win a heavyweight title, following Michael Spinks.
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