MOSCOW, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he would be glad to grant a request for Russian citizenship from U.S. boxer Roy Jones Jr. as the multiple world champion visited Russian-annexed Crimea.
The 46-year-old boxer, famed for winning world titles in four different weight categories, drank tea with Putin in Crimea’s naval port city of Sevastopol, photographs released by the Kremlin showed.
Jones, who has branched out into rap and acting in films, was in Crimea to appear as a guest at a boxing show on Sunday.
“I think that if I had a Russian passport, for example, it would be a lot easier for me to come and go, because people love sport here and so I love this place,” Jones told Putin in comments translated into Russian by TASS state news agency.
Putin replied: “If you intend to link a significant part of your life with activities in Russia, then of course we will be glad and will fulfil your request to receive Russian citizenship with pleasure.”
Boxing promoter Vladimir Khryunov, who works with Jones in Russia, told TASS that Jones had “no questions at all about travelling here,” despite Washington’s condemnation of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Russia granted citizenship to French actor Gerard Depardieu in 2013 after he expressed his anger over French tax laws.
Putin, a judo black-belt, has previously hung out with a number of muscle-bound stars including U.S. actor Steven Seagal and Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme.