Gov. Chris Christie accepted a champion's belt from former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson on Thursday for his efforts on prisoner re-entry.
"You took the punches, trust me, you deserve it," Tyson told Christie during the presentation at a conference in Jersey City where they were speakers.
The Republican governor has dedicated his final year in office to prisoner re-entry issues and drug addiction. He was the featured speaker at the reopening of a New Jersey state prison as an institution to treat drug-addicted inmates earlier this week.
Christie also heads a panel for President Donald Trump on opioid addiction. People addicted to drugs end up behind bars too often, Christie said.
At one point, Christie and Tyson shared an awkward exchange about President Trump. Tyson asked Christie to tell the president something.
It sounded like Tyson may have said: “He said he was going to give me my pardon, so I’m waiting for my pardon.”
But according to NJ.com, a spokeswoman for Tyson said the boxer was saying "partner" not "pardon."
Either way, Christie heard it as "pardon," responding: “I didn’t know what I was going to talk to him about next. Now I got it, got the pardon to work on.”
Tyson was convicted in 1992 on rape charges and sentenced to six years in prison. That year, Trump defended Tyson, saying the conviction was a "travesty."
Christie noted that it may have seemed odd to see him, Tyson and former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey — who organized Thursday's event and also runs Jersey City's prisoner re-entry program — appearing together on the same panel.
"We sit up here as imperfect people who have had challenges in our lives of all different kinds," Christie said. "But I also think we're people who can contribute a great deal to making society better."
McGreevey, a Democrat, resigned as governor amid a sex scandal in 2004 and announced he is a "gay American."
Tyson urged former inmates Thursday to stay enthusiastic and remain committed to staying on the right side of the law.
"You got to want to do this stuff," he said. "You have to say, 'I don't want to rob that guy no more, I don't want to shoot those people no more.' And that's just where it's at."