Women’s rights groups have voiced their opposition to tonight’s controversial appearance in Belfast of convicted rapist Mike Tyson.
The former heavyweight boxing champion will appear along with local boxing legend Barry McGuigan tonight at An Evening with Mike Tyson at the Waterfront Hall.
But protests are expected outside the venue as women’s advocate groups expressed their disgust at the event.
Tyson was jailed for three years in 1993 after being found guilty of the rape of beauty queen Desiree Washington.
Eileen Calder of the Rape Crisis Centre in Belfast criticised McGuigan for agreeing to take part.
“Barry needs to hang his head in shame,” she said.
“I have always been a huge fan of his, I even considered naming one of my children after him. He has done so much great work for charities and integrated education. I can’t believe he has agreed to take part in this.”
Ms Calder said she felt sick when she heard Tyson would be visiting Belfast.
“Believe me, if this was the other way around, he would not even be allowed into the country.
“The United States does not allow convicted rapists in, they are interested in protecting their citizens.
“I would appeal to boxing fans to look beyond his boxing to what he has done — he is a convicted rapist.”
Annie Campbell, director of the Women’s Aid Federation, Northern Ireland, added: “We are disgusted that this man who is a rapist and has committed domestic violence has been invited to appear at a flagship venue in Belfast. It raises serious questions of credibility for those who are on the city council.”
However Gerry Storey, head coach at the prestigious Holy Family Boxing Club in north Belfast and Barry McGuigan’s former trainer, said it was just about the boxing for him.
“Anyone who is going to the event is going because of boxing,” he said.
“Some of the younger ones are hoping to get speaking to Tyson but I don’t see anything else happening.”
A council spokeswoman said: “The booking is from a private promoter who is hiring the hall. Belfast City Council does not have a policy that would prevent this event taking place, as this could be construed as a form of censorship.”