‘Siberian Rocky’ pledges allegiance to ‘Team Putin’

Former boxing champion Ruslan ‘Siberian Rocky’ Provodnikov has become the latest athlete to join the ‘Team Putin’ initiative set up by NHL giant Alexander Ovechkin in support of Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of next year’s elections.

Washington Capitals captain Ovechkin formed the initiative earlier this month, announcing on his Instagram page he wanted to create a sports team that represented a “strong and close-knit Russia.”

READ MORE: NHL star Ovechkin launches ‘Team Putin’ ahead of Russia’s presidential race

Known as an all-out ring warrior, Provodnikov claimed the WBO light-welterweight (140 lbs) world title when he clubbed American champion Mike Alvarado into submission in 10 rounds in Colorado in 2013.

Announcing his allegiance to ‘Team Putin’ on Wednesday, Beryozovo native Provodnikov posted a highlight clip of that fight, which he won by 10th-round retirement, to his Instagram account.

“I would like to join by fellow athletes Alexander Ovechkin and [hockey player] Evgeni Malkin in supporting our Head of State, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. To be part of Team Putin, is an honor,” Provodnikov wrote in the caption accompanying the post.

Provodnikov holds a 25-5 record from 30 professional fights and trained for most of his career in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, after being spotted by promoters early in his career.

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He is also famed for his 2013 Ring magazine ‘Fight of the Year’ showing against Timothy Bradley, just seven months before challenging Alvarado. Many believed Provodnikov deserved the victory in that WBO welterweight title fight, dropping a razor-thin unanimous decision despite flooring and nearly stopping Bradley in the 12th round.

Since his last fight in June last year, Provodnikov has attempted to enter politics, so it is perhaps no surprise he has become part of the initiative. Provodnikov also posted a personal message to Putin on the latter's birthday last month.

Chess grandmaster Sergey Karjakin and Pittsburgh Penguins’ Malkin also announced on their respective social media accounts they will be joining the ‘Team Putin’ movement as an official show of solidarity with the Russian president.

Karjakin, who joined the team last week, commented: “I was always open to supporting Putin, now I can finally do it officially. Team Putin – I’m on board.”

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