When Tyson got home to Henderson he made a pact with himself, pledging, "This has all gotta stop." Adds Kiki, "Mike's always been kind of spoiled, pampered. This was probably one of the first times in his life when he was 100 percent present. He would take these deep sighs, like when you know the whole weight of the world is on somebody." Tyson would also hug Milan, who had been born only five months earlier, ever tighter. He and Kiki—whom Mike had been dating off and on since 2003—had already agreed to a July wedding, but on June 6 they decided to marry that very night, telling no one and making an exception to visit the Strip. And then husband and wife left the La Bella Wedding Chapel at the Hilton and came straight home.
The two had realized, Kiki says, that "tomorrow isn't promised." Which is not to say that their union is risk-free: Tyson's two previous marriages ended in divorce. He has also served three years in prison, from 1992 to '95, for raping beauty queen Desiree Washington (he continues to fiercely deny the charge), fathered seven kids with four women, served another 3½ months in '99 for assaulting two people after a traffic accident, declared bankruptcy in 2003 (having earned more than $400 million), and on and on. But Kiki, who had already been through a failed relationship with Mike when she was 24, isn't quite a babe in the woods either. In '08 she was jailed for six months for fraud and conspiracy after an FBI investigation into a so-called "ghost-teacher" scam, by which some members of her family had stolen $274,000 from the Community College of Philadelphia.
The first time Mike even saw their child was at the Sundance Film Festival last January, where Tyson was being screened. Kiki had just gotten out of prison and Milan was three weeks old; predictably, husband and wife agree, the reunion was "really weird, really awkward." Expectations were low. But since May, despite all the odds, Tyson has kept that pledge to himself. Says Kiki, who first met him when she was a teen, "We're just one happy, seemingly dysfunctional, but very functional family."
And maybe that's the best way to put it. Maybe Mike needs someone who can countenance his brutal honesty and tolerate his tales of debauchery. Even more, maybe Tyson needs someone who makes him want to be better at an age when he is personally shocked to even be alive.
"I realized that if I wanted to have a healthy life and if someone was willing to love me, then she deserved the best I had to offer," Tyson says. "She deserved the best of me physically, emotionally, spiritually. And it wasn't easy, trust me. Could you imagine messing with me, and I'm an addict, and I've got the Mike Tyson God Ego going on? But I planted the seed in my mind, and I didn't let it die. I nurtured it and nurtured it...."
In marriage, the two say, he has not cheated on her. He has not hit her. He has not done cocaine. He has cut out the enablers from his old life. The relationship seems to have done more for him than any of his assorted rehab stints. "I don't deserve my wife and children," Tyson says. "I just knew that in order to make this work, all that other stuff needed to die."
Sometimes it all moves too fast for him, he admits. Sometimes, Tyson has realized, he must remind himself to "pump his brakes." Mike Tyson is still an addict in recovery, a man with innumerable vices, coming to grips with himself every day. Boxing, for example, is "not a part of my life no more," he says. "It's over. A wrap." But he will still accept invitations to attend the biggest fights—this is another Strip exception the couple will make—and Tyson, world-famous since he was a teenager, easily latches on to memories from those days, mentally stepping back into his old black-trunked self and hating the costume, all the yelling at members of the media and screaming "F--- you" at the world. "Who am I?" he asks at one point, laughing and putting his head in his hands. "What the f--- was that guy? It was a character I invented. But that was me."
While he may continue to crave the feeling of invincibility he had when he was young and undisputed, he loathes the reality of what that extreme life triggered: hates what he was. Standing in his living room in Henderson one afternoon, talking to his wife and a family friend, he discusses one such episode. In 1989, three years after becoming the youngest heavyweight champion ever, at age 20, Tyson accepted an honorary doctorate from Central State University, a historically black college in Wilberforce, Ohio. "I got there, and all these girls are happy to see me," Tyson recalls. "I'm having a ball; I think I'm somebody." So atop the dais the next day, he devised a punch line: "I don't know what kind of doctor I am," Tyson proclaimed, "but from the look of all these pretty black sisters, I hope I'm a gynecologist."
Back then, at least some people laughed. Today, however, there is dead silence in the room, finally broken by Tyson's rasp. "Two years ago," he says, "I talked to some people about my mother. And I learned that she went to school right down the street from [Central State]." His voice grows louder. "And I was down there and said some stupid, dumb, ignorant s--- like that. My family waited to get a mother------ like me"—even louder now—"and I embarrassed 500 years of our family! As they waited for me to get there! To say something for them! And I embarrassed them!" Tears are welling in Mike's eyes when Kiki interjects, "They were proud! You were a kid, honey!"
"Baby," Tyson says, "no. That was a real bad one. A bad one. No excuse.... My mother and her family thought that education made them somebody. I could have said something awesome! I could have explained how my mother went to school. But the first thing I thought about was my d---." He pauses. "If I didn't have a d---," he quips, exasperated, "I could've run for president or something."