Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who was convicted of rape in 1992 and served three years behind bars, was welcomed into Toronto City Hall by Rob Ford Tuesday.
After a quick meeting in Ford's office, Tyson emerged to call Ford "the greatest mayor in Toronto's history" and denied knowing anything about the mayor's past racial slurs.
Tyson is in Toronto to perform his one-man show at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday and, according to Ford, requested to meet the mayor.
Ford tweeted two photos of Tyson taken from inside his office during the meeting, calling the former boxer "legendary."
— Mayor Rob Ford (@TOMayorFord) September 9, 2014
The pair walked out into a media scrum where Ford said he idolized the boxer since he was a teen. The mayor even said, at one point, that he and Tyson were "cut from the same cloth."
When the former athlete was asked about the mayor's past racial slurs, Tyson said he didn't know anything about it but suggested everybody makes mistakes.
"I've said racial slurs to people before but I'm no racist," Tyson said.
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Tyson also told reporters he respects Ford's ability to overcome adversity and said the mayor "has a troubled past because he has 24-hour surveillance" of the press.
"It's not his fault, it's just that he is living his life and we are human beings — we have no idea what you do behind closed doors," Tyson said. The former boxer also asked if people would instead prefer a mayor "who's clean cut but behind the door you never know what he's doing.''
Ford was asked by a reporter earlier in the day if he was concerned about the optics of bringing a convicted rapist into his office.
"I'm not going to comment on his personal life," Ford said. "I've never met the man before and I'm interested in what he has to say."
Ford has welcomed other celebrities to City Hall in the past, including disgraced former Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson and the rapper Snow, but Tyson's visit appeared to ruffle more than a few feathers in light of the biggest sports story of the week.
On Monday, star running back Ray Rice was dropped by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the NFL after shocking video was released showing him knocking out his wife in an elevator. Tyson's ex-wife, actress Robin Givens, has accused Tyson for years of being violent and abusive during their relationship. Tyson was also convicted of assault in 2007.
Tyson was asked about Rice as well but, according to The Toronto Sun's Don Peat, said he "didn't know anything about that."
But not everyone was happy to see Tyson welcomed into City Hall. Members of the "Rob Ford Must Go" sit-in group turned their backs on Ford, Tyson, and members of the media covering the spectacle.
The Rob Ford Must Go sit-in participants have turned their backs on the Ford-Tyson meeting and the media. pic.twitter.com/2MIrh53BFu— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) September 9, 2014
A campaign volunteer for mayoral candidate David Soknacki also seemed to take issue with the coverage of Tyson's visit in light of the Rice news.
Any #TOpoli media covering Ford & Tyson today who condemned Ray Rice yesterday?
Asking for your conscience— Andrew Tumilty (@AndrewTumilty) September 9, 2014
You can see why #TOpoli media would overlook Tyson's criminal past.
Not like sports & violence towards women have been in the news lately— Andrew Tumilty (@AndrewTumilty) September 9, 2014
And Soknacki vented his frustration online as well.
Since his retirement from professional boxing, Tyson — who infamously bit off part of Evander Holyfield's ear during a 1998 bout — has made cameos in numerous TV shows and movies, including "The Hangover." He also performed his one-man show on Broadway.
Toronto voters head to the polls on Oct. 27.
- With files from The Canadian Press