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Boxer Valuyev Joins United Russia

Boxing champion Nikolai Valuyev Andreas Beil

Boxing champion Nikolai Valuyev has turned into a United Russia political heavyweight, joining the party's St. Petersburg branch.

Valuyev, 32, whose height of 2.14 meters has earned him the nickname "the beast from the East," said Friday that he was not planning to give up boxing but had joined the ruling party to expand his range of activities, RIA-Novosti reported.

He said he would oversee the construction of boxing schools for children in his native St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg legislature Speaker Vadim Tulpanov, a United Russia member who presented Valuyev with his party credentials, said Valuyev might take part in elections.

Stanislav Bukhlov, a boxing promoter who worked as a political strategist in the 1990s, said Valuyev could help attract votes to United Russia and that the party could provide Valuyev with a life after boxing.

“With his boxing career at an end, the image of a party activist is better for him than the status of a retired former champion,” Bukhlov said, adding that Valuyev has good communication skills.

Valuyev lost the World Boxing Association champion title to British boxer David Haye last year.

In 2008, a St. Petersburg court convicted Valuyev of assaulting a parking attendant and ordered him to pay several thousand dollars in fines and damages. The assault occurred after the elderly attendant chastised Valuyev's wife for parking in a zone reserved for buses at St. Petersburg's Spartak arena in 2006. A higher court overturned the fine last year.

Valuyev has tried his hand at acting, playing the lead role of a boxer who lost his memory in Russian director Filipp Yankovsky's 2008 film, "Stone Head."

?  United Russia's faction in the State Duma already has several sport celebrities, including gymnastic champions Alina Kabayeva and Svetlana Khorkina.

The first celebrity boxer to join United Russia was

former champion Konstantin Tszyu in 2006. “I joined United Russia because it is the party that helps children,” Tszyu told The Moscow Times in an interview in 2007, explaining that he used the party affiliation to promote children's boxing.

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