New Zealand’s indigenous Maori may have inspired Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo, but the admiration does not appear to be mutual. On Wednesday New Zealand authorities cancelled the former boxing champion’s visa after he had earlier been granted an exemption that would have allowed him to enter the country despite his 1992 rape conviction, MSN News reports.
New Zealand’s prime minister had already criticized Tyson’s planned November visit, during which he was scheduled to speak at a charitable event called “Day of the Champions.” Although conviction for a violent crime like rape would normally disqualify an applicant, Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson said in a Wednesday statement that the decision to grant Tyson a visa was a “finely balanced call,” — which was reversed after the organization behind the speaking event formally withdrew its support for Tyson’s appearance on Tuesday. The chief executive of the charity, Life Education Trust, told the Associated Press in New Zealand that it had already decided not to accept money for the event because of concerns about Tyson’s checkered past.
Acknowledging the controversy surrounding his visit, Tyson spoke to APNZ before his visa was cancelled and said, “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.”
Tyson also told APNZ that he got the idea for his infamous facial tattoo from New Zealand’s indigenous Maori culture. Many Maori people used to get intricate tattoos on their faces to indicate status in their tribe, and some Maori today still 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,” Tyson told APNZ earlier this week.
Tyson—who served three years in prison before being released on parole for the 1991 rape of an 18-year-old woman—may also have to scrap his planned speaking tour in Australia, where the decision on his visa is “still pending,” a spokesman for the country’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship told the Associated Press. Although the Department can grant exemptions, Australian law indicates that potential visitors may be denied entry if they have a “substantial criminal record,” including a sentencing of more than a year in prison.