Boxing promoter David Higgins has admitted his company Duco Events was wrong to engage in discussions with Teina Pora about a charity boxing match.
Duco had been accused of taking advantage of Mr Pora, with Mr Pora's lawyer labelling its behaviour as "reprehensible" and "reptilian".
In a statement released to nzherald.co.nz, Higgins said: "Duco Events has taken time to reflect on Teina Pora's recent request to participate in a charity boxing bout.
"It was made clear by Mr Pora and his boxing trainer, who is a long-term friend and supporter, that he is a passionate boxing fan, has training in the sport and has held a goal of competing in an event.
"We have weighed up the situation, including public reaction, and decided not to continue discussions with Mr Pora about a potential bout."
Higgins had earlier defended the fight and accused Mr Pora's legal team of "mollycoddling" him and treating him like a child.
Yesterday he told the Diary: "It would be a shame, for Teina's sake, if this fight falls apart because of a media fiasco."
Now Higgins admits he's been forced to listen to the media backlash.
This week, the Privy Council quashed Pora's convictions for the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett, for which he spent 22 years in prison after being twice convicted.
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In its decision, the Privy Council noted that Pora had been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome, had a low IQ and a mental age of 9 or 10.
Duco said yesterday that they were not aware of Pora's mental capacity and problems when they agreed to the boxing match.
In weighing "up the situation", Duco now imply that is a mitigating factor in stepping away from the fight.
The fight came about after Pora and his childhood friend Ermehn Loto, an amateur boxing promoter, discussed a charity fight with proceeds going to a cancer cause.
Loto found an opponent - a senior policemen with 20 years on the force - and approached Duco about putting Pora on an upcoming undercard.
Higgins, who represents champion fighter Joseph Parker, met with Loto and Pora this week and agreed to a bout.
A promotional video was filmed with Pora and Parker singing each other's praises, and was released to news outlets. But Pora's support team accused Duco of exploiting their client for financial gain.
They attacked the boxing promoters for using Pora's profile to boost Parker's bout on Thursday night, and said the video Pora appeared in with Parker was to encourage a bigger pay-per-view Sky audience, on which Duco would clip the ticket.
Mr Pora's lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, said his client did not know he was being filmed for that purpose.
In the video, filmed on a cellphone, Mr Pora said: "I'm a big fan [of Joseph Parker]. I used to watch his fights inside the place I've been for the last 22 years and to stand there and meet him, it's an honour and a privilege."
He went on to say that he had been training in prison and One News stated Mr Pora was keen to fight a police officer in the ring in the next few months.
The footage, filmed by Duco's communications manager Craig Stanaway, was also released to 3 News and other media outlets, including the New Zealand Herald.
Mr Krebs told Newstalk ZB yesterday that Mr Pora was unaware that the video would be on the news because there were no television cameras at the meeting, only cellphones. "He was aghast and disappointed," he said.
"It was just usury, usury for the purpose of promoting this boxing match."
He said Mr Pora was a big boxing fan, but the meeting preyed on Mr Pora's vulnerability and naivety, which was "utterly reprehensible".
"In my view that's something of a reptilian approach and it's desperately unfair to Teina."
Higgins had been adamant that Mr Pora and his trainer were told the footage might be released to the media and that he was comfortable with that.
He said the trainer contacted him by text and indicated Mr Pora was keen to fight on Duco's card in future. "It was his idea and he approached us," he said. "He wants to fight a cop ... It was never our idea.
"We said to the trainer we'd introduce him to Joseph Parker, we did and it was grand.
"I also said it might end up with the media and they said that was fine. He saw cameras in his face for five minutes and he was happy as Larry."
Higgins denied he was being exploitative, saying Mr Pora's legal team should leave Mr Pora to live his own life now he has freedom.
"I'm not exploitative. I don't need this fight. I'm only following through on Teina's request. If he wants to fight we'll stick by him. It's his decision," Higgins told the Weekend Herald.
Now Higgins admits they made a mistake and the fight will not go ahead.