Kristina Rihanoff, the Russian blonde who seduced former World Champion boxer Joe Calzaghe during the last series of Strictly Come Dancing, has told HELLO! magazine how the Welshman has a softer side, and nursed her through a secret health scare earlier this year.
The professional dancer, who this series is partnered with DJ Goldie, had an operation to remove a benign ovarian cyst.
“It was a really scary experience because I want to have children one day,” she told HELLO! magazine, as she and Joe posed for an exclusive photoshoot at their home in Wales.
The health problem occurred in the early days of her relationship with Joe, and she admitted she was unsure of how he would react.
“It’s one of those things that can test a relationship,” said the Latin and ballroom dancer who was married to American dancer Brian Jolly for five years and had relationships with Corky Ballas, a professional dancer on US show Dancing With The Stars, and her Strictly co-star Vincent Simone.
Joe, however, was a tower of strength. “Joe was just there for me,” said Kristina.
“He took me to the hospital, brought me back to Wales, was around me 24/7, feeding me, helping me, and that’s when I was just taken so deeply by how caring he is.
Joe, who has two sons with his ex-wife Mandy, and previously dated model Jo-Emma Larvin for five years, feels his relationship with Kristina is special.
“She’s [Kristina] the person that I’ve gelled with most out of anybody in my life.
She’s definitely the most understanding person I’ve been with. Kristina is gorgeous, really sensitive, loving.”
The couple’s relationship survived another challenge in March this year, when Joe confessed to occasional cocaine use.
That is firmly in the past, however, and the former BBC Sports Personality of the Year winner is focusing on his new ambition: acting.
He has been taking lessons from a top London acting coach, and is confident in his abilities.
“My acting coach thinks I can do it,” said Joe.
While many would expect he would be naturally suited to tough guy roles, he believes he can do more.
“I think people would expect me to be like Vinnie Jones, but I think if I take it seriously I can do other things,” he said. “I can be versatile.”
He is also supportive of his girlfriend’s career, and far from jealous of the time she will be spending with Goldie.
“I have been really, really hoping that she gets a great partner this year,” said the boxer, whose dancing was described as “riger mortis” by judge Craig Revel Horwood.
“She was stuck with me last year. I want her to win, she deserves it.”
SEE THE FULL EXCLUSIVE STORY IN HELLO! MAGAZINE, OUT NOW.