The Tyson conflict stems from the fighter's 1992 rape conviction. Anyone convicted of a crime that would carry a 12-month jail sentence in Britain is deemed unfit to enter the country unless they can show "compassionate reasons."
Promoter Frank Warren said he will lose $1 million if the bout is called off and that he intends to proceed. Francis stands to earn $400,000 to $500,000 and Tyson about $12 million.
"Nearly every hotel in Manchester is booked. Over 20,000 people have bought tickets," he said. "All this should have been taken into consideration."
British Immigration Service officials faxed Warren a letter Tuesday asking for "compassionate reasons" why Tyson should be allowed to enter. They said each case is dealt with individually. While Tyson could apply for admission at a British embassy or consulate, they said in practice he would only learn his fate when he faces an immigration officer at Heathrow.
Warren pointed out that other convicted felons such as Don King have been allowed to enter England. Francis' manager Frank Maloney was furious that the fight was threatened.
"We have allowed Nazi war criminals in and a dictator from Chile," Maloney said. "Yet a man who has served his sentence for a crime he committed is the subject of a campaign."
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Blair smiled as a member of Parliament said Tyson was being used as a "political whipping boy" by some British politicians.
"I think anyone would be ill-advised to use him as a whipping boy," Blair said. "This is being dealt with by the immigration service. They have to deal with it according to their rules in the normal way."
©2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed