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Russia’s US-born boxer Johnson studying Russian, demonstrates conversational vocabulary

Last week, the pugilist won his first fight under the colors of the Russian national flag, defeating Ireland’s Sean Turner

MOSCOW, February 21. /TASS/. Russia’s US-born heavyweight boxing champion Kevin Johnson told TASS on Wednesday that he is actively attending classes to learn the Russian language, and is already attempting to speak Russian in everyday life.

"I attend language courses a couple of times a week and I also practice speaking with Russian people," Johnson said. "I know some simple words and combinations already, for instance 'Privet' ['Hi'], 'Dobry den' ['Good afternoon'], 'Khorosho' ['Good'] and 'Idi syuda' ['Come here']," Johnson told a TASS correspondent.

The boxer also said he had learned how to count in Russian, demonstrating his knowledge of the words for numerals one through ten, saying he soon plans to memorize up to the number 20.

On January 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree granting Russian citizenship to Johnson.

Last week, the pugilist won his first fight under the colors of the Russian national flag, defeating Ireland’s Sean Turner. The bout was held in the Russian capital of Moscow on February 16 and the opponents boxed wearing Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gloves. Johnson won the fight by technical knockout (TKO) in the fourth round.

Johnson, 44, who obtained a Russian passport last month, had initially applied to become a Russian citizen in September 2023. 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 now officially known as Kevin Vladimirovich Johnson in his passport.

Russian boxing promoter Khryunov told TASS last month that 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. Khryunov also said at that time that Johnson had applied for a mortgage to purchase a residential property in Samara.

Born in Asbury Park, 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.