Known as the “Beast from the East,” Valuyev, who is nearly seven-feet tall (2.13 m), set off on a two-day trip to find bigfoot on September 14 after his expedition was blessed in a ritual led by a shaman to enlist the help of friendly forest spirits.
The two-time world heavyweight champion, who hung up his gloves in 2008, was accompanied by journalists from 16 Russian media outlets on the trip to find the local “Kuzbass” yeti, which was last reported to have been seen in 2009.
“Valuyev did not manage to meet the yeti itself but on the way he discovered ‘traces’ such as broken tree branches," a local government press release said on September 16. "By the time they reached the Azass cave, the expedition saw gigantic footprints, similar to a human’s.”
According to the government press release, Valuyev, 38, spoke to local hunters who have sighted the beast, but they warned that the Kuzbass yeti “doesn’t like to appear before humans.”
Local authorities told Russian media in February 2009 that there had been a sighting of a “hairy humanoid creature that was 1.5-2 meters tall."
A twitter account claiming to be the elusive mythical creature tweeted the following at 2 p.m. Moscow time on September 16: “Nikolai Valuyev drank a bucket of tea in my cave, but carelessly forgot the bucket itself. Thanks! It’ll come in useful at home. Pity that it’s not quite enough for me.”
Valuyev’s trip to the region was supported by the ruling United Russia party, according to the Keremovo authorities.
It appears to be part of a concerted effort to boost tourism in the region. Tourists can now visit the cave, RIA Novosti reports.
The industrialized Keremovo region of almost three million is known for having one of the largest coal deposits in the world.
Temperatures in the Western Siberian area, which lies four time zones east of Russia, can drop as low as 40 degrees centigrade below zero.
-- Tom Balmforth