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American heavyweight boxer Kevin Johnson gets Russian passport

Johnson, 44, had filed an application to become a Russian citizen in September 2023

MOSCOW, January 11. /TASS/. US-born heavyweight boxer Kevin Johnson, who was made a Russian citizen by presidential decree earlier this week, has officially received his Russian passport, a TASS correspondent reported on Thursday.

"Happy birthday to me," Johnson said after he got his Russian passport.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to Johnson.

Johnson, 44, had filed an application to become a Russian citizen in September 2023, and his representative later disclosed that the athlete decided to take a Russian patronymic, or middle name, in honor of the Russian president, thus he is officially known as Kevin Vladimirovich Johnson in his passport.

The US-born pugilist told TASS last year that, if granted Russian citizenship, he wanted to live in Samara, a central Russian city on the Volga River. Russian boxing promoter Vladimir Khryunov told TASS at that time that Johnson had applied for a mortgage to purchase a residential property in Samara.

Reached by a TASS correspondent on January 9, Russian boxing promoter Khryunov said Johnson intended to work as a coach at an Olympic training center in Samara as soon as he was formally registered as a resident of the Volga River city.

Asked by a TASS correspondent on January 9 whether the American-born boxer intended to surrender his US passport, Khryunov said: "What Kevin needs to do right now is to obtain his Russian [internal] passport, his Russian foreign travel passport, and other documents." (All Russian citizens have both an "internal" passport, which serves as their primary ID, and a "foreign" passport for traveling abroad - TASS.)

"But, as regards surrendering his US passport, this already involves follow-on steps that need to be taken gradually without any haste," the promoter said. "He [Johnson] does not need his American passport, as nothing lies ahead for him in the United States."

Khryunov also disclosed that Johnson planned to compete in a boxing match in February under the national flag of Russia.

"Kevin will hold his next fight in February. It will be his inaugural bout under the national flag of Russia," Khryunov told TASS without specifying any potential date or opponent for the February bout.

Born in the state of New Jersey and known as the "Kingpin," Johnson boasts a career record of 36 wins (20 by KO), 22 defeats (three by KO) and two draws in his 60 professional boxing bouts.

In December 2009, he challenged Ukrainian boxer Vitali Klitschko for the World Boxing Council (WBC) heavyweight title belt, but eventually lost, while becoming only the second boxer to manage to go all 12 rounds in the ring against the famous Ukrainian fighter, who has retired from professional sports and now serves as mayor of Kiev.

In October 2017, Johnson won the International Boxing Organization (IBO) championship belt by defeating Italy’s Francesco Pianeta, but failed to defend his title the following year against Croatia’s Petar Milas.