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17 Jun, 2022 11:32

Boxing icon ‘ready to go to Russia’ for detained basketball star

Roy Jones Jr says he is working to secure the release of Brittney Griner from Russian detention
Boxing icon ‘ready to go to Russia’ for detained basketball star

Former boxing champion and pound-for-pound great Roy Jones Jr, who is a joint United States and Russian citizen, says he is working to secure the release of women's basketball star Brittney Griner who has been detained in Russia for several months after she was allegedly caught attempting to bring cannabis 'vape' cartridges into the country. 

Jones, who has previously met with Russian president Vladimir Putin, told TMZ Sports that he is hoping to travel to the country to personally oversee the release of Griner.

Griner's case has grown some considerable steam in recent weeks as an array of basketball stars in the United States participated in a concerted social media campaign designed to put pressure on the Russian authorities to allow her release, even with reports indicating she could face as many as 10 years in a Russian prison.

But as Jones Jr told TMZ Sports, petitioning for her return to the United States has become personal to him.

“Would I put my life on the line, take a chance to go to Russia to exchange prisoners? Yes, I would,” said Jones.

“Because if [Brittney] was my daughter, I would want somebody to do the same thing for me.”

Jones, the Hall of Fame fighter and champion in numerous different weight classes in his heyday in the sport, became a Russian citizen in 2015 and fought four times in the country towards the latter stages of his career - including a loss to former world champion Denis Lebedev in 2011. 

And he believes that the contacts and goodwill he has amassed during his time in Russia would make him an ideal candidate to help work towards Griner's release.

“I had a friend, a couple of my friends that I knew, I called and I asked him 'Is there any way we can try to facilitate?' because I don't do politics,” Jones added.

“I'm a sports figure and they love me as a sports figure. 'Is there any way we can use my sports influence to possibly can get anything arranged to help get Brittney home?'

“My friend called and he called me back and he said, 'yes, they said they'd be willing to do a prisoner exchange.' I said, 'Well it's probably rough because the prisoner exchange is probably a real prisoner.'

"She's not necessarily a person that's a real prisoner but I'm sure that maybe the US will be understanding of this and get her back home because I'd be terrified if my kid was stuck in a foreign country in jail, you know?”

Jones, though, remained tight-lipped on who exactly his contact in the Russian authorities was, only saying that it was someone with close to ties to Putin.

“One of my guys is like... he's the right-hand man to the office of Mr. Putin, so he's high up on the political scheme. He's a reporter and he usually does most of the reporting for Mr. Putin so he can go make direct contact with whoever necessary to help me.”

Brittney Griner is a former number one pick in the WNBA Draft and had been traveling to Russia to play for UMMC Ekaterinburg, the team she represents during the WNBA offseason.