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Tyson is banned from New Zealand

Former boxing champion Mike Tyson has been banned from a visit to New Zealand, the country that inspired his Maori-based facial tattoo.

The government cancelled his visa because of his rape conviction, days after prime minister John Key spoke out against the visit.

Immigration minister Kate Wilkinson said she was also influenced by a charity that would have benefited from his appearance wanting nothing to do with Tyson.

Tyson said he had been looking forward to meeting New Zealand's indigenous Maori. But his whole Down Under speaking tour, scheduled for next month, was threatening to fall apart: Australian immigration authorities said they have yet to decide whether to let him in.

Tyson's 1992 rape conviction would normally prevent his entry in New Zealand and could be grounds for denial in Australia as well. Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison for the rape of an 18-year-old woman in an Indianapolis hotel room. He served three years before being released on parole.

Tyson was to speak at a November event in Auckland, the "Day of the Champions," which is being promoted by Sydney agency Markson Sparks. On Wednesday the agency continued to promote tickets for appearances in New Zealand and five major Australian cities.

Ms Wilkinson said in a statement her approval was "a finely balanced call," but then the Life Education Trust charity withdrew its support on Tuesday.The charity's chief executive, John O'Connell, however, said it long ago decided not to accept any money from the event due to its concerns over Tyson's character. Mr O'Connell said a volunteer trustee mistakenly sent a letter to immigration authorities supporting Tyson's plans.

Promoter Max Markson said he was continuing to sell tickets and will give refunds if Tyson cannot appear. He said he had been "hoping it might be a smoother run," but remained confident Australia would grant Tyson a visa and that New Zealand would reverse its decision when he found another suitable charity.

"He'll only be in the country for 20 hours, I don't think he's a danger to anybody, and thousands of people want to see him," Mr Markson said.

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