MORE than 2,600 people have signed a petition urging organisers to cancel an event with former boxing champion Mike Tyson at Portsmouth Guildhall.
The petition was set up by domestic and sexual violence support charity Aurora New Dawn on July 10, and has already attracted an impressive amount of signatures and international support.
Tyson was the youngest man to win the world heavyweight title at the age of 20, but was jailed for six years in 1992 for raping an 18-year-old beauty pageant contestant.
Shonagh Dillon, chief executive of Portsmouth-based Aurora New Dawn, says hosting an event with the sporting figure contradicts the city’s hard work against sexual assault.
She said: ‘Portsmouth has achieved White Ribbon status for its work tackling violence against women and hosting an event like this goes against all that.
‘There’s so many other positive role models in the boxing industry that they could have instead. It’s impossible to separate Mike Tyson the boxer and Mike Tyson the person, and to differentiate between his behaviour inside and outside the ring.
‘He openly speaks about violence towards women, and we’re not happy with someone like that coming to the city and being branded as a hero. And the response we’ve got from the petition shows that lots of other people feel the same.’
Almost 80 per cent of tickets for the event, which cost £100 a head, have been sold despite the campaign to cancel the show.
Marelize de Beurs, from Portsmouth Guildhall, said: ‘We are not the promoter of the event, we are simply the venue – we have turned down all of our own promotion in sympathy with campaigners.
‘But we are an international venue and we have lots of controversial acts here, even Frankie Boyle was controversial.
‘We can’t start judging our acts.
‘We are aware of everyone’s concerns but we also recognise the organiser’s right to promote their event and some people have taken that a bit too personally.’