Tyson hits back at New Zealand visa speculation

Mike Tyson answered his critics
a little more directly this time.

Former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson has hit back at speculation he may be refused a New Zealand visa.

The 46 year old former prize-fighter is due to speak in Australia and New Zealand in November as part of his 'Day of the Champions' motivational speaking tour. However, the NZ leg of his trip was put in jeopardy yesterday when doubt arose that Tyson would be approved a New Zealand visa.

New Zealand immigration law stipulates that anyone sentenced to five years imprisonment or more is ineligible for an NZ visa; Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison for rape in 1992 although he was released after serving three.

Immigration New Zealand yesterday said Tyson's application would be processed like any other, suggesting his hugely public profile and controversial reputation wouldn't play a part in the decision.

Tyson originally remained optimistic about his chances of reaching New Zealand, saying he was 'so excited to be visiting' and 'looking forward to meeting' his fans.

However, the former undisputed heavyweight champion didn't forge a reputation as 'the baddest man on the planet' for nothing and his attitude towards the trip has soured since.

"I'm not going to sit here and cower and beg to come to your country," said Tyson in a teleconference from Las Vegas to Auckland.

"I'm sorry but if I can't come, I can't come. It will be my misfortune but I don't want to feel like I'm on trial to come to your country.

"I haven't been to New Zealand, man it must be a serious country if I can't go there."

Tyson's promoter, Max Markson, who appeared in the teleconference alongside the ex-fighter, said they were appealing to 'the minister' - presumably Immigration Minister Nathan Guy - over the case.

"We've applied for the visa and asked for special discretion from the minister, so we're waiting for patiently for a visa," said Mr Markson.

Mr Markson said Tyson, who has since turned his life around since struggling with drug dependencies and going bankrupt in 2003, should be allowed to visit New Zealand.

"[Tyson is] a great ambassador and he really does have a tremendous story which he has to tell the people of New Zealand and it would be a tragedy if the show that he's been doing on Broadway for the last few weeks can't be told."