Tyson won't 'beg' for visa

2012-08-30 09:20

Wellington - Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson says he hopes to be granted a visa to visit New Zealand in November but won't "cower and beg" immigration officials to overlook his criminal convictions.

Tyson has been booked to make a visit New Zealand and Australia in November on a motivational speaking tour dubbed "The Day of Champions."

The New Zealand Immigration Service has yet to decide whether it will grant a visa to Tyson who was convicted of rape in 1992 and served three years of a six year sentence.

Under New Zealand law, anyone convicted of an offense which carries a prison sentence of five years or longer will not get a visa, though discretion is allowed in some cases.

Speaking to New Zealand reporters on Thursday in a video hookup from Las Vegas, Tyson was in a typically pugnacious mood.

"I'm not going to sit here and cower and beg to come to your country," Tyson said.

"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've never been to New Zealand. I've never had the opportunity before. It must be a serious country if I can't go there."

Tyson's promoter, Max Markson, told reporters "we've applied for the visa and asked for a special direction from the minister, so we're waiting patiently for a visa."

Markson said Tyson's facial tatoo is based on the traditional artworks of New Zealand's indigenous Maori and could be classified as "an honorary New Zealander."

"He's a great ambassador and he really does have a tremendous story which he has to tell to 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," Markson said.

"He's not a danger to New Zealand, he'll be there for one day."

In a statement, the New Zealand Immigration Service said Tyson's visa application would be considered under the same rules as any other.

"Mike Tyson will have to apply for a visa to enter New Zealand and make full disclosure of his previous convictions," it said.

"There is never a guarantee that any visa application will be approved. All visa applications are considered on their individual circumstances."

The 46-year-old Tyson used to proclaim himself the "baddest man on the planet", but no longer.

"Those days are over man," he said. "I left that for the other guys."