Jason LaVeris/Getty Images
Jason LaVeris/Getty Images
Mike Tyson's passport won't be getting New Zealand's stamp of approval.
The country's immigration department has pulled the plug on the perennially controversial former heavyweight champ's scheduled visit, saying that the "finely balanced call" to grant him a visa has since been reconsidered.
"A letter of support from the Life Education Trust, that would have been a benefactor from the visit, was a significant factor in approving the application," read a statement on the New Zealand government's website.
"Yesterday evening the Life Education Trust contacted my office and asked for that letter to be withdrawn, making it clear that the Trust no longer wants to have any involvement with Mr Tyson's visit," said Associate Immigration Minister Kate Wilkinson.
Tyson, who spent time in prison after being convicted of rape, had told news agency APNZ that he was looking forward to seeing the island nation's native Maori people—the inspiration, he said, for the infamous tribal tattoo on his face—while in town this November for a one-off charity performance of his one-man, autobiographical show.
Prime Minister John Key had previously objected to the decision to make an exception for Tyson, whose criminal record otherwise made him ineligible for a visa.
In a statement, the Hangover scene-stealer tells E! News: "It was unfortunate to learn the Prime Minister of New Zealand is against me coming there. I have been accused of a crime that I did not commit, however, I will not let this impede my charitable efforts to help those in need namely children. As always, I will continue to travel to countries where I am welcomed in order to offer help to those who welcome it."
Max Markson, the promoter for the now rather iffy Tyson performance in Auckland, tells APNZ that he's willing to go another round with the government to secure the visa.
"It would be a tragedy if Mike Tyson could not come to New Zealand to do his show," Markson said, per the New Zealand Herald, which reports that tickets to the Nov. 15 performance were selling for as much as $395. "We'll see if we can get a visa issued again. They've issued it once, hopefully it might be issued again."
"He's a vegan, he's sober, he's a great role model about how man can turn his life around and I'm sure there's worse people walking the streets in New Zealand today than Mike Tyson will be in the 20 hours he is here, hopefully, with his wife, his children," Markson continued.
National law prevents visas from being issued to those who have served prison sentences of five years or more. Tyson served three years of a six-year sentence after his rape conviction in 1992.
"I think she's made the right decision on the basis of the fact that the Life Education Trust has withdrawn their support," Key said of Wilkinson's cancellation of the visa. Meanwhile, the head of the children's charity told the Herald that their initial letter of support for Tyson was sent by an unauthorized volunteer and the Life Education Trust never officially endorsed Tyson's proposed trip to New Zealand.
On a brighter note, if Tyson does somehow get the go-ahead to make the trip, he'll be in decent shape for the lengthy plane ride.
His rep confirmed to E! News today that the ex-fighter is recovering from recent neck surgery.
"It's a very common surgery, especially for athletes and he feels great, just has to wear the neck brace to keep everything stable for the next three weeks," the rep says.
—Additional reporting by Holly Passalaqua