American boxer looks to Putin for Russian citizenship

An American boxer known as ‘Hillbilly Hammer’ revealed that he would be interested in meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin to secure Russian citizenship.

By: Karim Zidan | 1 month ago
American boxer looks to Putin for Russian citizenship
Credit: IMAGO / ULMER Pressebildagentur

A boxer known as “Hillbilly Hammer” is the latest American athlete attempting to secure Russian citizenship. 

Sam Shewmaker—a longtime boxer and bareknuckle fighter from Missouri—revealed that he is interested in meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin to discuss becoming a Russian citizen. 

The 38-year-old, who is currently in Vladikavkaz, Russia to compete in a boxing bout against former WBA cruiserweight title challenger Dmitry Kudryashov, made his case during a press conference Monday. 

“It would be great for me to get Russian citizenship so that I have dual citizenship,” Shewmaker told Russian state-owned news agency TASS. “Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin would be very interesting, an honor for me.” 

Putin’s Men

Shewmaker’s request comes amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine—a war which the Biden administration has condemned before providing humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine. The U.S. has also placed sanctions on Russia and Belarus, the countries heavily involved in the invasion. 

The boxer’s attempts to garner Putin’s approval to secure Russian citizenship is not without precedent. In 2016, Putin awarded actor Steven Seagal Russian citizenship. Two years later, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Seagal had been appointed as a special representative in charge of “Russian-US humanitarian ties” and would be tasked with facilitating “relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field.” 

Putin also awarded Russian citizenship to American boxer Roy Jones Jr. and MMA fighter Jeff Monson. 

Putin’s decision to hand Russian passports to notable American figures helps propagate his political agenda through American mouthpieces who are happy to praise Russia while criticizing the United States. This soft power strategy is little more than glorified publicity for the Russian president and his controversial government.

In 2020, Seagal recorded a birthday message for Putin, saying “he is one of the greatest world leaders and one the greatest presidents in the world.” Most recently, the actor launched an All-Russian Aikido Centre in Moscow to train young Russians for army service. 

“I am very glad to be able to present this centre today and that aikido will develop here,” Seagal, who also serves as the head instructor of the Russian Aikido Federation, said during the inauguration. “These arts can make this world a better place.”

Jones Jr. has also become a Putin propagandist and apologist. He appeared on the UFC Unfiltered podcast in 2018 and said that Putin was a “Man’s man—he does things that men are highly engaged in.” He has since met with the likes of Chechen dictator Ramzan Kadyrov and posted propaganda shots of himself dressed in Russian military gear.

Meanwhile, the All-Russia People’s Front—a political coalition started by Russian President Vladimir Putin—posted several videos featuring Monson parroting Kremlin talking points. These included claims that Russia was not interested in occupying Ukraine and that its only intention was to rid the country of fascism.

Monson later announced his decision to renounce his U.S. citizenship in an interview with RT, adding that part of his motivation to do so was because the US “provoked” the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

“America started this war by instigating the coup in 2014,” Jeff Monson said in reference to Euromaidan before pushing a series of unverified conspiracy theories. “Since then, they have been supplying Ukraine with weapons to destabilize the country. Ukraine is going to become a colony of corporate America.”

As for Shewmaker, it remains unclear whether Putin will entertain his request. The 38-year-old holds a 5-1 pro record as a boxer but has also dabbled in bareknuckle boxing, where he holds a 4-4-1 record and is currently riding a three-fight losing streak. 

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About the author
Karim Zidan
Karim Zidan

Karim Zidan is a investigative reporter and feature writer focusing on the intersection of sports and politics. He has written for BloodyElbow since 2014 and has served as an associate editor since 2016. He also writes for The New York Times and The Guardian. Karim has been invited to speak about his work at numerous universities, including Princeton, and was a panelist at the South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival and the Oslo Freedom Forum. He also participated in the United Nations counter-terrorism conference in 2021. His reporting on Ramzan Kadyrov’s involvement in MMA, much of which was done for Bloody Elbow, has led to numerous award nominations, and was the basis of an award-winning HBO Real Sports documentary.

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