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October 2, 2014

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Facing resistance Down Under, Mike Tyson is doing a lot of good at home

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The VIP grand opening of “Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth — Live on Stage” at MGM Grand on Saturday, April 14, 2012.

Mike Tyson to Star in 'Undisputed Truth'

Mike Tyson. Launch slideshow »

Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth - Live on Stage

Former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson performs in Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth - Live on Stage Launch slideshow »
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The VIP grand opening of "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth -- Live on Stage" at MGM Grand on Saturday, April 14, 2012.

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Mike Tyson and Gene Simmons at KISS by Monster Mini Golf on Wednesday, June 13, 2012.

It seems the sun never sets on Mike Tyson. This month he’s been zigzagging through the United Kingdom, finishing a speaking tour that is a pared-down version of the “Undisputed Truth” one-man showcase he performed at MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theater in April.

That brisk-selling spree of shows sent him to Broadway over the summer, where he performed six shows in a limited run at Longacre Theater in August. He’s since embarked on a European tour and has plans to take the new performance, a motivational speaking session titled “Day of Champions,” to Australia in November.

Tyson has spent considerable energy over the past year atoning for past transgressions and conducting himself in a most charitable manner while attempting to make a living by being Mike Tyson. But the ex-champ and Las Vegas resident has met stiff resistance in his plans to tour New Zealand and Australia next month.

Tyson had originally planned a Nov. 15 appearance at Auckland’s Vector Arena, but his attempts to enter New Zealand have been KO’d after the charity he planned to partner with withdrew its support of the show. That move prompted New Zealand immigration authorities to revoke Tyson’s visa, which had earlier been approved.

So, for now, Iron Mike will not be onstage in New Zealand, though he has re-submitted his application.

The climate is more favorable for Tyson in Australia, as that country’s immigration department has granted him a visa to take part in what is billed as a five-city tour beginning Nov. 16 in Brisbane and covering Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. But that approval was not granted without a fight, as Tyson’s criminal record, specifically his 1992 rape conviction (for which he served three years in an Indiana prison), forced a review of his application before Australian immigration officials allowed him to enter the country.

Tied to that approval was a formal warning by a spokesman for Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, who was quoted in the Australia Herald Sun newspaper as saying, “The applicant has been formally warned that visa holders are expected to respect Australia law and not cause or threaten harm to individuals or the community.”

That’s the sort of baggage Tyson carries, still, when attempting to make public appearances abroad. What those concerned officials and fans Down Under might find interesting is Tyson’s charitable work at home. He announced this week a new nonprofit organization, Mike Tyson Cares, which addresses the needs of at-risk children.

The formal launch of the foundation is Dec. 9 at an event at Tabu Ultra Lounge at MGM Grand. Cynics might judge Tyson’s new nonprofit as a little more than part of an image-makeover, but the head of one of the Las Vegas organization that stands to benefit -- the Shade Tree shelter for abused women and their children -- disagrees.

Shade Tree Executive Director Marlene Richter has toured the facility with Tyson’s wife, Kiki, and in one memorable (and hardly reported) event over the summer, Tyson himself showed up at the shelter.

In an ice cream truck.

“This was back on June 16 when he was about to launch his one-man show in New York, and we snuck him in in an ice cream truck,” Richter said during a phone conversation. “We put Mike inside and he handed out ice cream. It was a big deal to the kids. We had more than 100 kids out that day, and they had never seen him face-to-face before.”

It was well over 100 degrees that day. Tyson poured with sweat. There was not a media member in sight, and no announcement of Tyson’s appearance was issued before or after he spent the day at Shade Tree.

Richter has been in her post at Shade Tree for five years and understands the possibility that a celeb can fall short of a commitment. Tyson himself did not follow though on a commitment he’d made to the shelter several years ago, before Richter was onboard (she declines to specify what happened in that instance). But those who had experience with Tyson in those days asked Richter, “What is different?”

“When I talked to Kiki, it was apparent that things had changed, but I put the conversation out there and said, ‘Show me. Show me it’s not a media stunt.’ ”

Kiki has answered by arranging a job fair after Mike and she return from Australia. She is recruiting companies with job openings who will meet with women at the shelter. She is spearheading the effort, giving tips on how to construct resumes and placing women who have been victims of domestic violence into new jobs.

“She came out here on a tour and was so moved at what we do, and to actually see the hope we provide to families is really important,” Richter said. “But we are in very difficult financial straits. Very difficult.”

Shade Tree is not affiliated with any national organization. It is a local, Las Vegas nonprofit that has run dry of its reserve fund. Last month, Richter was forced to lay off 10 percent of the already bare-bones staff at Shade Tree.

She is hoping to raise $100,000 at the event in December. How it will be raised, exactly, and what the night will entail are details to be worked out. But it is an opportunity for Tyson to make an enormous impact without having to throw a punch.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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