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Mike Tyson
August 02, 2010
From comedy cameos to talk shows to reality TV, the newly clean, sober, vegan former Baddest Man on the Planet is in a whole new place—and desperate to stay there
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August 02, 2010

Mike Tyson

From comedy cameos to talk shows to reality TV, the newly clean, sober, vegan former Baddest Man on the Planet is in a whole new place—and desperate to stay there

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The gray sedan motors down South Pecos Road through the warm spring afternoon, tracing a route parallel to the inferno shimmering four miles to the west. From the car's crowded backseat—squeezed happily next to his wife, Lakiha (known as Kiki), their 16-month-old daughter, Milan, and a visitor—Michael Gerard Tyson glances out his window, just long enough to catch the Las Vegas skyline glinting back at him like a fun-house mirror. "I can't believe how me and my wife don't go out now," Tyson says, chuckling. "My whole life was about that f------ Strip."

He is asked to clarify: Back when you were champ, you mean? Back when you were still fighting? "No," Tyson says, matter-of-factly. "Two years ago."

The voice, that of the most intimidating man in sports history, is now roughly an octave lower than is popularly imagined. Scratchier, too, rendering that familiar falsetto lisp an outdated caricature of the new Mike Tyson. Such a label, it should be noted—justifiable skepticism aside—is no exaggeration, either, no mere boxing inflation. Indeed, it's rather a matter of deflation. Since ballooning to upwards of 330 pounds as recently as last year, gorging himself on all manner of vices in all manner of, in his words, "dens of iniquity" (not least of all his own home), Iron Mike, at age 44, has shed a flyweight's worth of flab, dropping him below 220.

So ask the last great American heavyweight about that famous Fitzgerald line—you know, "There are no second acts in American lives"—and Tyson will quickly wave his hand, shooing away the notion as if it were a mosquito. "I had 10 acts!" he shouts. "But all those acts, the only thing I did was make money for myself. And I blew it all away, anyway."

In the car, a full 25 years removed from his pro debut against Hector Mercedes, Tyson recounts a story from a fairly recent disintegration. It was one night in 2007, and a friend of Tyson's had finally persuaded a friend of his, a drug dealer, to visit Tyson's room at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. So alarming was the former champion's addiction to cocaine that "I couldn't even get dealers to sell," Tyson explains.

"This street guy I didn't know from a can of paint came over," Tyson recalls. "And I thought, Wow, cool. Maybe this guy will party with me! But when I go to the desk and start cutting the cocaine up, all of a sudden this guy starts freakin' out, getting little tears in his eyes." As Kiki—who has heard this story before—discreetly turns and begins to breast-feed Milan, Mike reenacts the exchange in alternating voices:

DEALER: Nah, Mike. F--- this s---. Nah, I don't want to do this, Mike. Let's train, champ! Let's get in shape! I love you, Mike! You don't need this s---!

TYSON: Yo, dig, right? I appreciate you. But you sell drugs, right? Do your job: Sell. Drugs. Don't be the f------ moral police.

DEALER: F--- this s---!

And then said dealer snatched back all the cocaine he could carry and sprinted out the door. "I wondered, What did that guy expect when he came over?" says Tyson. "I guess he thought it was going to be for this whole party of people." Tyson falls silent, right as his house in Henderson, Nev., comes into view. "But it was just me," he adds. "All by myself."

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