WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — In a reversal, New Zealand authorities on Wednesday barred Mike Tyson from entering the country whose indigenous Maori people Tyson says inspired his facial tattoo.
And a Downunder speaking tour for the former heavyweight boxing champion was threatening to fall apart altogether as Australian immigration authorities said they've yet to decide whether to allow him into that country. Tickets for appearances in New Zealand and five major Australian cities in November are still being promoted by a Sydney agency.
Tyson's 1992 rape conviction would normally prevent his entry in New Zealand and could be grounds for denial in Australia as well. He had been granted an exemption for New Zealand before that visa was cancelled Wednesday, days after the prime minister spoke out against the visit.
Tyson was to speak at a November event in Auckland, the "Day of the Champions," which is being promoted by Sydney agency Markson Sparks!
New Zealand's Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson said she'd initially granted entry because a children's health charity would get some of the proceeds from Tyson's speech. She said in a statement her decision was "a finely balanced call" but that the charity that would have benefited, the Life Education Trust, withdrew its support Tuesday.
"Given that the trust is no longer supporting the event, on balance, I have made the decision to cancel his visa," Wilkinson wrote in her statement.
The charity's chief executive, John O'Connell, however, said the charity long ago decided not to accept any money from the event due to its concerns over Tyson's character, but that a volunteer trustee had mistakenly sent a letter to immigration authorities supporting Tyson's plans.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship said "I can tell you that a decision is still pending" on Tyson's application for an Australian visa.
Tyson's criminal history could prevent him from obtaining an Australian visa. Would-be visitors normally must pass a character test. Those with a "substantial criminal record" — which by the immigration department's definition includes people who, like Tyson, have been sentenced to more than a year in prison — would fail the test. But the department can still use its discretion to grant a visa.