Mrs. T

Overcoming her own adversity, Kiki Tyson shows steely determination in bolstering the life and post-ring career of Iron Mike


Illustration by Ryan Tino

Fate will not be denied, not matter what logic suggests.

Once you toss a wedding ring out of a window, logic dictates you’ve likely tossed the marriage as well. You, however, are not either of the Tysons.

“As soon as I did it, I regretted it—‘Oh, F, what did I just do,’” recalls Kiki Tyson about a tiff with the champ. “I’m a bit dramatic sometimes.”

Dramatic would be throwing it out your living-room window. Melodramatic is flinging it out your hotel-suite window at New York’s Four Seasons. Enter the doorman, who found the scuffed symbol of love and commitment.

“The funny thing was the ring had kept sliding off my finger because I lost a little weight and I told Mike I needed to get it sized down. But it had this perfect little dent from the velocity of throwing it. Now it fits perfectly. It’s kind of a metaphor for me, like it may not be perfect, but it’s perfect for me.”

Hitched to the face-tattooed pugilist since 2009, she’s become his partner not only in life and love, but in showbiz, wearing twin caps as co-writer/co-producer of the big guy’s one-man Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth—Live on Stage April 13-18 at MGM Grand’s Hollywood Theatre.

Life with Iron Mike? Given his travails, often sordid and self-inflicted, few of us can imagine it. Yet life’s a tricky, trippy proposition. Consider: He’s done time. She’s done time. Yes, that kind of time. Now it’s their time. That took a lot of time.

Romance was a lifetime away from their initial introduction, a phone-only encounter when she was a tender teen of 13. Connected through her father, Philadelphia-based Muslim cleric Shamsud–din Ali—whose acquaintances in the fight world included promoter Don King—her first contact with Tyson occurred at the lowest of his low moments, a few months after his release from prison after serving time for rape.

Five years hence, they met face to face. “There is an age difference,” the 35-year-old says of her relationship with her 45-year-old spouse. “We weren’t in an intimate relationship until I was 24. He’s the only person I’ve been able to fall in and out and in love with. I would be so over him, but we were never done. Who keeps bumping into Mike Tyson? Whose path keeps crossing with his? I would be someplace and coincidentally so would he. I was like, let me be finished with him. But God had a bigger plan for us.”

Looking back on that plan, the pain wasn’t just his, but also hers.

As reported by USA Today and based on federal documents, her now-72-year-old father (born Clarence Fowler) was listed as a member of Philadelphia’s drug-dealing Black Mafia and was sentenced to life in prison in 1972 after being convicted of killing a Baptist minister. After six years of incarceration, he was released when the guilty verdict was overturned.

However, he is back in prison, following a 2005 conviction for violating the federal RICO statute (which stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), stemming from fraudulent city contracts, loans and donations to a Muslim school. One of five family members formerly on the company payroll, Kiki (born Lakiha Spicer) wound up in Alderson Federal Prison Camp in West Virginia after the government appealed her initial sentence of house arrest.

Tough times multiplied. Just before she entered prison, she discovered she was pregnant. Tyson was battling drug addiction. When she was released in 2008, they were out of money and expecting daughter Milan (they also have a son, Morocco). After marrying the following year at a Vegas wedding chapel, however, their lives reversed course. “He was in one direction mentally and I was in another,” she says. “But we finally got it together.”

Reflecting on her travails, Kiki notes the stirrings of a positive in the midst of a negative. “I’ve always enjoyed writing but I really didn’t put time into the craft until I went through this crazy ordeal my family went through with the federal government,” she says. “I had time, literally, to be still. I started writing. My brother and I took all the horrible circumstances in our lives and we made comedy out of it. Instead of crawling in a corner and crying, we were just laughing our way through it.”

Fast-forward: Kiki’s got a co-writing credit for a show that transitions her husband from pugilist to performer (notwithstanding his cameo in The Hangover), retracing his turbulent life. “He deals with things, [the rape case], his marriage to Robin Givens, things he hasn’t spoken about,” she says. “There’s a jazz singer who will be up there, there will be a band up there. It’s a show, not just him winging it and telling the stories off the cuff. He’s really going to blow people away.”

Will it shift perceptions of Iron Mike? On this point, Kiki is emphatic. “People may think it’s disrespectful, but I really don’t give a fuck about people’s perceptions of him,” she says. “As long as my perception is OK, everything else is relative for me. I knew he was a beautiful person. The only thing I wanted to change was the destructive pattern of drugs and that kind of thing.”

Borrowing the language of Mike’s world, she adds: “I love him, and right or wrong I’m in his corner. I’m going to fight with him until the end.”

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