Late last month, Joseph Parker fought in Providence, Rhode Island, a place with a significant boxing history. Dylan Cleaver seized the opportunity to catch up with one of the city's more infamous fighters.
In a boxing gym on the main street of North Providence, next door to Larry's Lounge and across the road from Dollar Tree, the American Dream meets American Gangster.
The gym is so new that it is yet to earn that timeless fragrance of sweat and leather.
There is wall-to-wall Everlast equipment; the canvas inside the ring has retained its sheen. If blood has been spilt in there, it is not immediately obvious.
The gym is near empty. There's Solomon, a young black guy who looks like a welterweight, and John, the heavily tattooed local chapter boss of the Hell's Angels. They're hitting bags, not each other.
A white Mercedes sedan pulls up outside of Legendary Boxing. Out steps a light heavyweight with a permatan and slicked-down hair. He's 45 and built like a beer fridge; perfectly capable, he reckons, of going 12 rounds with anyone you might want to put in front of him.
He doesn't lock his car. He doesn't even raise the windows. He doesn't need to.
Nobody would be stupid enough to steal from Jarrod Tillinghast.
The former boxer was another face in the crowd when Joseph Parker fought Alex Leapai at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in his hometown of Providence. The main event on the card was the WBO middleweight title fight between Pole Maciej Sulecki and local hero Demetrius 'Booboo' Andrade. The latter carries the burden of returning Providence to boxing glory not seen since Vinny Pazienza stalked the ring in the 1980s.
Many thought it would be Tillinghast filling that void. After all, he had a name that was instantly recognisable in Rhode Island and beyond – for most of the wrong reasons.
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Jarrod's father Jerry Tillinghast made his name as the local mafia's go-to guy for muscle. Rumour has it he racked up a body count in service to the Patriarca family – who ran the bulk of organised crime in New England, a region covering the six north-east states of the US from Connecticut to Maine – that would make your average psychopath blush.
His son, Jarrod, has quite a story, too, and he's here to share it. It's a boxing story, sure, but it's more than that.
After two hours or so of listening and not much talking, you feel like you're nearing the climax of a Scorsese movie.
The only difference is that it's all true.
"Boxing saved my life many times over," says Tillinghast. "I should have been dead like 75,000 times.
"I grew up with payback on my mind. It made me say, 'Fuck everybody, I'm doing this my way and I'm going to take out everybody in my path. I was knocking guys out as far as I can remember. I had heart and I had balls and that's a tough combination when you're misguided and you don't care."
He talks in a New England Irish accent, not quite as thick off the tongue as it is an hour or so up the road in Boston, but strong enough so that the r's become mangled and heart becomes "haht", car becomes "cah".
If Tillinghast's outlook on life sounds like it falls somewhere between anarchic and nihilistic, you need to understand his past.
Jerry Tillinghast might have been Irish but he lived his life in service to the Italians. His surname meant he could never be a "made man", but it was no impediment to him becoming one of Raymond Patriarca Sr's most loyal and trusted associates.
"He took a real liking to my dad," Tillinghast says. "My dad was his guy, his ace. My dad came out of the military, Vietnam. He was big and strong and came back home and somehow, some way ended up linking up with Raymond and the rest is history."
Jerry was implicated in the 1975 US$3 million Bonded Vault robbery, the largest in Rhode Island history, though he wasn't convicted. He was also the chief suspect in several underworld murders.
His career choices finally came to a head in late 1978 when he and his brother Harold were arrested, and subsequently convicted, for the murder of loan shark George Basmajian. The court noted that Tillinghast fired six rounds into Basmajian, stopped and reloaded, before putting another three into his body for good measure.
The brothers then went to drink at a popular Providence bar where they were arrested.
So Jerry wasn't much of a father at a time when the perpetually angry Jarrod could have used a dad.
Terry Tillinghast wasn't much of a mother, either.
A drug and alcohol addict, Terry "raised" Jarrod in a house of 24-hour party people.
While his siblings slept, Tillinghast would sit at the top of the stairs and try to keep an eye out for his mum.
"She does well now, but in those days you wake up the next morning and your mother's face looks like the Elephant Man because of her boyfriend. All I could do was think, 'I can't wait till I'm big.' It made me nasty, mean. The times I woke up to my mum being beaten – and not just beaten but unrecognisably beaten – as a kid to see that, it was very difficult for me."
Other mornings were worse.
"I came out of my room at 4am one morning and some guy is dead on my kitchen floor, needle sticking out of his arm. They're dragging him out of the house to stick him on the sidewalk as if nothing ever happened, like there wasn't a dead body in my house."
With an absentee father and an addict mum, the odds were against Tillinghast living a straight life, so he made his way the only way he knew how. From a young age, he ran with a crew from the Silver Lake district of Providence.
They quickly made a name for themselves with the police and social services, and other criminals.
"Back in the day you were the cops or you were the robbers. There was no one in between," he says. "I was angry and I had the resources. I had friends that were doing home invasions. I had friends that were robbing banks. We were making counterfeit money, fake licences, stolen prescriptions – you name it, we did it."
Although Silver Lake was an Italian stronghold, they weren't mafia.
"They were just my clique, not wiseguys, and we were a strong crew. We were robbing drug dealers – anything that we could make money out of. We were into a lot of stuff."
It was the sort of "stuff" that was getting talked about. That talk filtered back to his father in prison.
"At this stage I was biting people's ears off, pinching noses. I had one foot in training school [jail for youth] and one foot out. I was in courts every day but I really liked freedom. I was a street fighter. I was knocking people out. My left hook, it's sinister.
"I went to visit my dad one day and he said, 'Kid, you're going to be right next to me. What are you doing? You're going to be in prison next to me at the rate you're going. If you want to fight, why don't you try to make money?' I said, 'That's a good idea.' I walked into a gym at 15 and gave it a shot."
The bond was instant. Tillinghast trained for two months and despite being 15 with a 16-years-old age limit, entered his first regional Golden Gloves tournament.
In the final, he met John Kimbrough, a much older taller man. The fight is on YouTube. Tillinghast looks like a kid because, well, he is, but the boyishness can't hide his fury.
The commentators think Kimbrough wins the fight but Tillinghast gets the decision.
"He went to jail for murder right after the fight. I looked for him for 20 years. I couldn't find him. Recently we reconnected. Now we're very dear friends. He's trying to make something of his life."
Tillinghast kept winning. Before boxing he knew he was good at being bad; now, in the ring, he was good at being good.
"I was a boxer-puncher. My heels don't hit the floor and I can knock you out with either hand and I was good looking.
"I was a deadly combination: I was sexy, I kick ass; I take your girl and your money," he says, unable to contain a rattling laugh that is part chutzpah, part nicotine, with a hint of coffee and chewing gum.
Tillinghast went on to win close to 20 Golden Gloves tournaments but the reputation he was gaining from boxing couldn't completely fill the void of the notoriety he'd earned on the streets, hanging with his crew, creating mayhem, making easy money.
"At one point in my life, the police, the CIA and the FBI were all following me. Growing up with my name I'd get pulled over. 'Tillinghast, get out of the car, where you going?' The first time I was searched and frisked, I was 14 years old."
Even when he turned pro in 1996 and KO'ed the unfortunate Robert Jones with his first punch as a prizefighter – "the bell rang, we came out, we tapped gloves… caught him with a left hook and he's face-planted into the mat" – he was still doing what he did best: robbing drug dealers.
They were can't-miss scores. Small-time dealers weren't going to go to the police to get their gear back. The one danger was revenge, but Tillinghast was impervious to the threat.
"I was untouchable. If you touched me you were dead. We were badass. At that point I was fearless. I didn't care about anything. If I die, I die. Go ahead and shoot me. Bring it on."
Others might say it was his surname, not his crew, which kept the dealers coming after him.
"I never went to my dad. I never asked him for help," he says. "My dad would be in prison hearing stories about me. He'd say kid, 'What the fuck are you doing? You're going to get yourself killed. You're out of control and I'm not hearing it from you, I'm hearing it from everybody else.' I'd be like, 'Don't worry dad, I got this.' He'd set special prison visits up because he was hearing about some of the things we were doing. He was worried because he was hearing that people were getting ready to make a move on me, maybe as repercussions for some of the things he'd done and maybe because of what I was doing.
"He was worried because it wouldn't be somebody I knew; it'd be someone that they sent from out of town to get me. I'd be like, 'I got this, I got my crew,' and he'd be, 'Forget your crew, you gotta listen, you can't be robbing guys who are gangsters, who are connected. You gotta give it back'."
Tillinghast never gave anything back.
With his boxing star still in ascendancy, Tillinghast took an easy "job" that didn't so much change his life as nearly end it.
He and a mate drove to a small-time drug dealer's basement flat in a clapped out town just north of Providence. They were there to buy $150,000 worth of weed but had no intention of paying. Tillinghast had spent the night before shredding old newspapers into banknote-sized bundles.
"My friend Dino was setting this kid up because that's what we did; we robbed drug dealers. I'm going in because I get the job done and never use a gun. I go in with these," he says, holding his fists up. "He had a guy in the house, which I didn't expect. My buddy Ronnie, who was in the car, had to come inside, down into the basement. He was sitting in the living room with the other guy while I went into the room.
"I go to the closet and there're 10 green garbage bags full of killer weed. For some reason that second I paused. I could have smashed him, put one on his chin and none of what followed would have happened."
A scuffle ensued, which Tillinghast re-enacts with an eerie detachment.
He and the dealer are jammed between a bed and a wall featuring a large mirror. As he turned to tell Ronnie to grab the weed in the closet, the dealer pulled a butcher knife from beside the bed and stabbed him in the head.
"It went in here, at eye level. Because I turned, it missed my eye and went into the side of my head. I looked into the mirror and this kid's hand and the knife are sticking out of my head, blood is just squirting like a fire hydrant all over the mirror."
Tillinghast dislocated the kid's shoulder to bring his arm around so he could bite the finger and get him to release the knife. Then he landed two left hooks, breaking every bone in his face. He was going to stick him with the knife – murder – but again hesitated, landing one more punch for good measure and running out of the house, knocking the other guy out on the way.
He didn't want to go to a local hospital: too many questions; too big a chance the Dominican gang he had just robbed from would find him to finish the job the butcher's knife started. He didn't have time go far.
"I was ready to pass out so we went to a hospital in North Providence. No sooner am I getting worked on than all these Dominican and Colombian kids show up. Forty cars deep, they were surrounding the hospital. I'm in one of the rooms and can see them coming up and down the hospital looking in all the rooms."
Just when it seemed like his figurative last rites were about to be read, cops turned up and the gangsters dispersed.
"That was my last one. That was it. I said, 'I can't do this no more.' It was close.
"I should be dead. I was 22, 23. I suddenly realised I didn't want to cut my life short without finding my purpose, my true meaning. There's got to be something great, a reason why I'm here."
Tillinghast enters a coffee shop a short drive from his gym, sees a cop sitting at a table and walks up to shake his hand.
The greeting is warm and friendly. The line between cops and robbers is no longer so black and white.
At other times during the Herald 's visit, he takes calls from friends who either want information – one has driven past a mutual friend's house and there are "20 cops outside" – or help with "scumbags ripping off a woman with MS".
His professional career extended to nine fights, all of which he won, but injuries and, yes, his lifestyle, saw him finish well short of his potential.
He fell in love with a girl from the right side of the tracks, Jordana, had two "beautiful boys" and then watched his life fall apart.
"I never really straightened out fully. I flirted with it a little bit," he says. "I tried the marriage thing. It didn't work. My ex-wife is a beautiful woman, she's a great mum, you know, it just wasn't for me.
"It was like the Outsiders with the Greasers and the Socs. She was a rich girl."
Tillinghast had always been able to solve his problems with a word in the right ear, with his fists, or by reputation alone.
Now he was up against two things he'd never really encountered: old money and legitimate influence.
"If I make a mistake, I lie in my own shit. Rich families never do. They make a mistake and they find a way to make it about somebody else: usually me, the gangster involved in organised crime; the boxer."
His wife's family never liked him. His father-in-law hated boxing. Even though Tillinghast made an emotional, successful two-fight comeback in 2007, he was convinced to retire, something that eats away at him even now.
When he and Jordana started separation proceedings, things got ugly.
"I was going to the bar to avoid going home because I couldn't deal with it. My way of dealing with it was I would drink. A drinking Jarrod is a dangerous Jarrod. Alcohol is the undisputed champion; nobody beats alcohol, I don't care who you are.
"I got a couple of DUIs and that didn't help me. I drink and close a whole bar by knocking guys out."
Tillinghast knew he was at a point where he was in danger of losing everything, including his sons.
"I always felt God tugging on me. I've been shot at, stabbed, in bad situations and 100 car accidents. I walked away from a lot of stuff so I began to think I was here for a reason.
"I walked into the church when my life was falling apart. It's OK to be knocked down in life – that's part of the process. It's not OK to stay there. So I grabbed the ropes."
In church, he met a state trooper who invited him to Bible study.
At the same time he started exploring his spirituality, he started reconnecting to the sport he had neglected.
He found a venue, fitted out the gym and now wants to get young people who might have been in the same position as him, a healthy outlet. It now hosts the Bible study group he attended. It's a curious dichotomy: For six days a week, some of the toughest, maybe even baddest, guys in the state walk through his doors; on the seventh day Jesus climbs through the ropes.
He puts on shows, the most intriguing one being Brawl For It All, a concept where sworn enemies get in the ring to sort out their differences in a controlled environment with appropriate rules and protection – a far cry from how Tillinghast dealt with his disputes as a wild-eyed teen with a dad-sized chip on his shoulder.
"I've got the police and the fire department lined up to take on each other," he says, with a glint in his eye.
He's busy. He's in the process of selling his life story to a network. Every episode, he says, will be peppered with unlicensed violence, boxing, moxie and, of course, "sex with great-looking women".
He's clearly taken by the fact his story, well known in his parts, will be told in a place as far-flung as New Zealand. He thinks he may have some distant family connections in the Antipodes.
Underpinning everything he does from now on, he says, will be the sport he loves but could never totally commit to.
He was recently inducted into the New England Boxing Hall of Fame. He wants his gym, the shiny new one next to the dive bar and the discount shops, to produce champions. He thinks it will. He's never been short on confidence.
As the bell dings for the end of a sparring round, John, the Hell's Angel, leaves the ring.
Tillinghast looks across at the formidable – some would say daunting – figure and smiles.
"Every change in my life for the better has come through boxing."