WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — In a reversal, Mike Tyson has been denied entry to the country whose indigenous Maori people he says inspired his facial tattoo.
New Zealand authorities on Wednesday cancelled an entry visa for the former heavyweight boxing champion and convicted rapist, days after the prime minister spoke out against his planned visit.
The Las Vegas celebrity had earlier been granted an exemption to New Zealand immigration rules to speak at a November charitable event, "Day of the Champions." Tyson's 1992 rape conviction would have normally made him ineligible to enter the country.
Speaking to the APNZ news agency this week before his visa was cancelled, Tyson said his tattoo was inspired by New Zealand's indigenous Maori culture. In pre-European times, many Maori wore elaborate facial tattoos as a sign of their status in their tribe. Some Maori today who identify strongly with their traditional culture get similar tattoos.
"Other than that I've never heard of Maori people, so I'm looking forward to come down there and see them," he told the agency.
Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson said in a statement Wednesday that the original decision to let Tyson enter was "a finely balanced call" and that the charity that would have benefited from his visit had now withdrawn its support.
Prime Minister John Key spoke out against the planned visit this week, questioning the decision by immigration authorities and saying he personally disapproved.
Before his visa was cancelled, Tyson told APNZ: "Fortunately, I am coming to New Zealand and there's nothing they can do about it and I'm so sorry, I'm sorry they feel disappointed and I'm just living my life."