Former world heavyweight boxing champion Roy Jones Jr. received his Russian citizenship from President Vladimir Putin over the weekend.
“I want to speak so well in Russian that people understand me without any problems,” explained Jones. “I think that’ll take about a year. I hope that next year I’ll already be speaking like a Russian.”
Putin signed the decree, which the Kremlin published on their website.
Putin has given Russian citizenship to former world heavyweight boxing champion Roy Jones Jr. -… http://t.co/ntlU98fMQF
— Roy Jones Jr. (@RealRoyJonesJr) September 12, 2015
He received backlash on Twitter after he announced the news.
@RealRoyJonesJr talk about sleeping with the enemy. RJJ American citizenship should be revoked and you should be sent to live in Russia.
— M. Figueroa (@PitbullLove70) September 12, 2015
@RealRoyJonesJr WTF are you doing champ? You're an Olympian and American hero. This shit is just ridiculous.
— Snaps Metronome (@nahnprophet) September 12, 2015
@RealRoyJonesJr wow, you blew through so much money that you need to act like Rodman? Stay in Russia, turd.
— Kevin Cawley (@cawley_green) September 13, 2015
Jones met with Putin in Crimea in August where he asked about Russian citizenship.
“I feel very popular in this country, like Michael Jackson in America,” stated Jones. “Russians’ attitudes cannot but inspire love, that’s why I want to be with this [sic] people.”
At the meeting, he explained with a passport that “it would be a lot easier for me to come and go, because people love sport here, and so I love this place.” Putin agreed Jones would be very popular at sporting events in Russia.
“You were highly successful in boxing – like no one else… I don’t think there have been any others like you in the world. I hope you will succeed in business here in Russia,” Putin exclaimed. “If you intend to tie a significant part of your life to activities in Russia, we will, of course, be happy and we will gladly grant your request for Russian citizenship.”
Jones fought as perhaps the best light-heavyweight boxer history. He defeated the Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, and Virgil Hill between 160 and 175 pounds before moving up to heavyweight to beat beltholder John Ruiz in 2003. As his boxing career continues, he wants to keep his U.S. citizenship and use his status as a sports star to “‘build a bridge’ between the United States and Russia,” where he has fought three times in the last five years.
He does not plan to retire, but would like to “earn 2 or 3 billion dollars.” Jones declared his intent to open many boxing schools in the country and “develop his rap career.”