name of the father

words: tim struby

photography: nils ericson

It was supposed to be an easy score. Get in, knock the kid unconscious, grab the drugs and get out. Nothing Jarrod Tillinghast hadn’t done a dozen times. His buddy Donny had been setting this kid up for weeks. First Donny bought a pound of weed. Then two. Now Donny wanted thirty pounds. But he had no intention of paying the $150K. This kid wasn’t with the cartel. He was white, a “goof” from Johnston, a town outside of Providence. This was free money.

Around 6pm, Jarrod slid into the passenger seat of his friend Rodney’s* Honda Prelude. On this steamy, summer day, Jarrod wore a white tank top, shorts and flip-flops. In his waistband he had a brown paper bag stacked full of newspaper strips, all torn into the size of $100 bills. He was nervous. Not scared nervous, but tense and hyper-vigilant, the same way he felt every time he’d stepped into the boxing ring. He didn’t know exactly how the robbery would go down; no two were ever exactly the same. But one thing was always certain. He wasn’t leaving without what he came for.

Thirty minutes later Jarrod stepped into the kid’s basement apartment. He didn’t like what he saw. Another guy sitting on the couch—the muscle. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go down, Jarrod protested. You trying to set me up? Rob me? I’m not comfortable with this shit. I’m going to get my friend Rodney.

With Rodney in the living room with the muscle, Jarrod followed the kid into the bedroom.

“Where’s the weed?” asked Jarrod.

“Where’s the money?” the kid replied.

Jarrod tossed the paper bag onto the bed. The kid opened the closet door and pointed to three green plastic trash bags. Bingo. But Tillinghast blinked. He looked at the kid’s face and his pleasant suburban apartment and couldn’t bring himself to knock him out. Instead the 27 year-old threw the kid down between the bed and the wall and turned towards Rodney.

“Grab the bags!” yelled Jarrod.

A second later, the kid grabbed a butcher’s knife he’d stashed under the bed and plunged it into Jarrod’s skull. A searing pain unlike anything he’d ever felt. Jarrod twisted the kid’s arm back and bit his finger until he dropped the knife. With the kid’s head wedged between the wall and the bed, Jarrod turned and looked in the mirror. Blood sprayed from his head like a fire hydrant without a cap. An inch either way, thought Tillinghast, and he could have lost an ear or an eye. Furious, he did what he did best. “I hit him with two left hooks,” says Tillinghast. “His whole face shattered.”

With the deftness of an athlete, he ran into the living room and knocked the other guy out, grabbed the three bags of weed and bolted for the door. As the two men charged up the stairs a pizza delivery guy was coming down. He screamed, dropped his pizza and backed against the wall with his hands up. If he hadn’t been drenched in blood, the pizza guy might have recognized Jarrod as one of the most promising young Providence boxers in recent memory. If he’d somehow heard Jarrod’s last name, he would have definitely known it belonged to one of Rhode Island’s most infamous crime families.

I

It’s a Friday night in Providence’s Federal Hill neighborhood and 43 year-old Jarrod Tillinghast sits at the bar in Costantino’s Venda Bar and Ristorante. Built like a bank vault, he is preternaturally tan, owns a halogen smile, and scars dapple face like cave etchings, each one it’s own story. The street fight in Silver Lake. The bar brawl in downtown Providence. The butcher’s knife incident. “None of ‘em ever happened in the ring,” he proudly notes. “I didn’t like to get hit.” Without a word, Frankie, the bartender, refreshes Jarrod’s Tito’s and soda.

A couple across the bar recognizes him. They don’t approach, but Jarrod can feel their stares, sees their furtive whispers. Back in the day, depending on how much vodka he’d had, Jarrod might have taken umbrage. Maybe crossed the bar with his left arm locked and loaded. “I always liked to fight,” he concedes.

His first bout was at age four in the family home in Cranston. Tired of Jarrod arguing with his eight-year-old brother Gerry, their old man Jerry Sr. bought them boxing gloves (heavily padded ones for Gerry) and rearranged the furniture into a makeshift ring. But Jerry was too tall, too strong, and Jarrod got pushed around. Couldn’t get close. To even up the fight, their old man grabbed Gerry’s arms, allowing Jarrod to unleash his inner animal on his brother. “Jarrod tuned him up,” recalls the 71 year-old Jerry. “I couldn’t stop him. Gerry Jr.’s yelling, ‘That ain’t fair!’ I told him, ‘Life’s a bitch, kid.’”

Four years later, the old man wouldn’t be at the Coventry boxing gym to see young Jarrod’s next two fights. Jerry Sr. and his brother Harold were serving life sentences at MCI-Walpole (Massachusetts Correctional Institution) prison for the 1978 murder of loan shark George Basmajian.

“In the ’70s and ’80s in Providence you were either the cops or the robbers,” explains Seth DeRobbio, Jarrod’s cousin. “Our family was the robbers.” Since returning from Vietnam, Jerry Sr. had become a legendary enforcer for Raymond Patriarca, the godfather of New England organized crime. Jerry had allegedly been involved in the multi-million dollar Bonded Vault heist of 1975 (he was acquitted). He’d been a suspect in a plethora of murders. By the early ’80s, the Tillinghast name had become as well known in mobbed-up Providence as Gotti in New York and Bulger in Boston.

From maximum security, Jerry Sr. tried to keep his family together. He moved his wife Terry and the kids from Cranston to Walpole so they could visit regularly. He’d call home daily, speak regularly with guidance counselors, teachers and principals, and had his  “spies” on the outside keep a close eye on his children for fear of retribution for the things he’d done to others in his line of work. If any of the kids acted out, Jerry Sr. would dole out the punishment. “He didn’t go to prison and disappear,” says Jarrod. “His power and control didn’t fade. It felt like he was always around.”

But the threads holding the family together unraveled. Jerry got transferred to a Florida prison. Jarrod’s mother slipped into cycles of abusive boyfriends, alcohol and drugs. By age 10, Jarrod’s home address depended on the day. One week he might stay with his grandmother in Providence, the next with Aunt Sissy in Cranston. His eight siblings boarded with other relatives around the state. Every so often Jarrod would move back in with his mother, but inevitably she’d break down again. “I looked up to normal families, their peace and stability,” says Jarrod. “I was always on edge. We weren’t the Brady Bunch. We were the Crazy Bunch.”

A molten rage began to build in Jarrod’s veins. Rage at his father for choosing a life that would take him away from his family forever. Rage at his mother, who didn’t have the strength to battle her demons. Rage over brothers and sisters who felt more like strangers than family. “Part of me was so angry,” he admits. “Sometimes I’d channel it for good, sometimes for bad.”

Good meant tearing it up on the diamond, the hardwood and the gridiron. Sports were everything Jarrod’s life wasn’t. There was order, stability. There were reliable teammates and dependable coaches. And that anger served him well whether it was striking out batters or breaking tackles. “He was fantastic,” recalls Jerry, who only got to see two games in person throughout Jarrod’s childhood. “He was quarterback, running back, and punter for the Edgewood Eagles. Scored a few TDs. He didn’t come off the field.”

Bad meant running the streets with his crew, Billy, Jamie, Johnny, Tony, Brian, and Jojo. Sometimes there’d be thirty or forty of them all hanging out at their spot, the park on Daniel Avenue in Silver Lake. They thrived on action, trouble, danger. Jarrod loved the danger; he was the son of a dangerous man and it ran in his DNA. He liked to hurt people because hurting others made him forget about his own pain. If the wrong kid walked past the park, he’d catch a beating. If the fellas were bored they’d go to The Wall on Plainfield Street or The Flats on Union Avenue and start shit with other kids. By the age of 15 Jarrod—by then a high school dropout—and the Silver Lake crew were boozing on The Hill at wiseguy watering holes like Bobo’s and brawling with bouncers and patrons at nightclubs like Confetti’s and Mecca.

With a handful of juvenile arrests for mayhem and assault, the Tillinghast name was back on the authorities’ radar. “We obviously knew who Jarrod was,” says Brian Andrews, a former detective commander for the Rhode Island State Police. “He and his friends were getting involved in low-level crime, smaller-time stuff. A lot of them were sons of mobsters so it wasn’t a surprise to see these guys do what they did.”

But Jarrod didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. Find himself doing a 20-year bid. “I wasn’t set on breaking the law, being a wiseguy,” explains Jarrod. He also didn’t want to be known as Jerry Tillinghast’s kid. He wanted to make a name for himself, step out of that shadow. But no matter where the old man got transferred—Florida, New Hampshire, Massachusetts—his shadow loomed. “It affected all aspects of Jarrod’s life,” says DeRobbio. “You got cops looking at you, people in general looking at you. Like his father’s name was tattooed on his forehead.”

He may have not have known it at the time, but Jarrod was on a search. A search for an outlet that wouldn’t land him in jail. A place where he could combine his passion for sports and fighting. A way to shed the moniker of Jerry’s kid and finally be known as Jarrod. On a summer afternoon in 1990, he walked into Manfredo’s Gym on Manton Avenue and found precisely what he was looking for.

ii

“Street kids are tough,” says veteran trainer and gym owner Peter Manfredo, Sr. “They’re not gonna take a shot and say ‘what am I doing?’ They’re gonna want to go again. Jarrod had that.” Over the next few weeks, the 16-year-old also showed innate talent: fluidity, movement, a tremendous left hook. Yet Manfredo, a longtime fixture on the Rhode Island boxing scene, also knew the significance of his new pupil’s last name. “We used to have to go to a lawyer’s office every Sunday and talk to Jerry over the phone,” says Manfredo. “His father wanted to know how it was going, who’s doing what and the next plan.”

The immediate plan? The 1991 Golden Gloves. Although Jarrod hadn’t ever fought in the ring, Manfredo figured they had nothing to lose. Worst case the kid gets some experience. Learns a little. In his first 156-pound bout, Jarrod squeaked by with a decision. He cruised in the second round, earned a bye in the third, and on February 7, 1991 he found himself at the P.A.L. boxing gym in Fall River, Massachusetts, minutes away from the biggest fight of his life: the Southern New England Golden Gloves novice 156-pound division title bout.

Hundreds of supporters had come; his whole Silver Lake Crew, his father’s friends, family, even old football coaches and teachers. This wouldn’t be a back alley, one-punch walkover. Jarrod’s opponent was a grown man named John Kimbrough. “He was like 30 years old,” recalls Tillinghast. “Batman, they called him.” To battle the nerves and the doubts that kept creeping up, the 16-year-old stared at the photo of his father he’d taped to the PAL wall. I am not going to lose, Jarrod told himself over and over. This guy is not going to take what I’m there for.

“Let’s roll, Tillinghast!” shouted Manfredo. “It’s time!”

In black shorts adorned with a skull-and-crossbones emblem, Jarrod walked towards the Fall River P.A.L. ring knowing there was more at stake than a trophy. Those hundreds of fans weren’t cheering for Jerry, but for him. To win meant doing something his father had never done. Something that could free Jarrod from that shadow. To lose? Unthinkable.

Local newspapers described it as a war. Back and forth, teenager versus adult. In the final round, Jarrod lost a point for repeatedly spitting out his mouthpiece. The fight was too close to tell until the referee raised Jarrod’s arm and the P.A.L. exploded with cheers. The new Golden Gloves champ drove back to Barry’s disco in Warwick where he and the Silver Lake boys partied until the sun came up.

For the next five years, Tillinghast tore up the amateurs, winning local and regional Golden Gloves championships. Three times he went to Nationals, only to lose to future pro standout Jose Spearman and World Champion Travis Simms. But more importantly than titles, Jarrod found a calling. “Boxing changed my life,” he says. “When I started fighting I wasn’t a loose cannon anymore.” This isn’t to say he became an alter boy. He still went out with the fellas. Still managed to mix it up on the streets. But he’d turned a corner. “I was proud of him,” says his father.

 

 

By 1996, Jarrod was ready to get serious, take his trade to the next level. “We talked about him going pro,” says Jerry Sr. “I was glad he was doing it. I told him if you’re gonna fight you might as well get paid for it.” 22-year-old Jarrod didn’t have any trouble finding a promoter. Jimmy Burchfield, Sr., the man behind Rhode Island’s CES Boxing, saw potential dollars and TV deals. “He was a promoter’s dream,” says Burchfield, Sr.. “He had a great left hook, was a good looking kid, and had a great following.” Burchfield, Sr. envisioned building up Tillinghast as he’d done with former world champion Vinny Pazienza.

Jarrod didn’t disappoint in his pro debut. On a June summer night, fans flocked to the Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston. Not all of them well-wishers. “Not everyone loved Jarrod’s family history,” explains Burchfield, Sr. “Like Ali, half of them came to see him win, the other half to see him lose.” Jarrod’s opponent, Robert Jones, came out swinging. “He threw two punches,” explains Jarrod. “But I weaved back, threw a left hook, and BOOM. First punch of the fight. Twelve seconds and he was done. They heard that left hook in the top of the balcony.”

Burchfield, Sr. hired Donny Denis, a renowned heavyweight from the ’70s and ’80s (who fought George Foreman and Gerry Cooney) to assist with training. The promoter brought Jarrod along slowly, building his confidence and honing his skills. Like Manfredo, Burchfield, Sr. had to deal with some unusual circumstances when it came to his young prospect. “I was worried that we’d get a judge who’d had a problem somewhere down the line involving Jarrod’s father,” he says. “So we had to do our homework regarding the officials.” Jarrod doubled-down on his commitment. “I had what it takes,” he says. “I knew I could be the best. That I could be champion.” By July of 1999, Jarrod was a perfect 7-0 and was on a trajectory to become the most famous Tillinghast in Rhode Island.

iii

Sheets of rain swept across Route 37 that June, 2000 morning in Cranston. By the time Jarrod noticed the truck barreling down on him, it was too late. It smashed into the back of his black Cherokee. Jarrod’s niece in the back seat was unharmed, but the same couldn’t be said for his left elbow. Surgery repaired the torn ligament. Doctors also cleaned up bone spurs they discovered. Yet the real damage was the time he’d have to stay out of the ring—and the opportunity to revisit old habits.

Truth is, despite all the sweat and blood he shed while boxing, Jarrod never fully purged the street life. The Silver Lake boys weren’t simply friends; they were the only real family he had. Jarrod’s love of danger might have ebbed, but it hadn’t disappeared. Sometimes a man can only change so much. In between fights as both an amateur and a pro, Jarrod had still been putting back the Absolut-and-cranberries at Mecca, River Café and Remy’s. Still getting into the occasional brawl at nightclubs. Still dabbling in crime. Sidelined with his elbow injury and no fight in the foreseeable future, Jarrod fell right back into his Providence lifestyle. Only this time the stakes had gotten higher.

“We were criminals,” says Jarrod with a smile. What started with making fake IDs and selling stolen ’scripts evolved into a significant robbery enterprise. “We didn’t steal from business owners or shakedown hard working people,” clarifies Tillinghast. “We did things where the law wouldn’t be able to come back on us.” Specifically, they ripped off drug dealers and criminals.

“Robbing drug dealers was very common back then,” says Andrews. “It started with Raymond Patriarca.” While the Silver Lake crew didn’t have the clout or scope of Patriarca’s crime family, they were out “hunting” every night, a territory that included Rhode Island as well as parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut. “Now we weren’t robbing from Colombian cartels,” explains Johnny Angell, one of Tillinghast’s closest friends. “We knew better. We found the guys who shouldn’t be doing it. The wanna-be drug dealers.”

Some wannabes were kids slinging on the corner. “We’d dress in jeans and polo shirts like undercover cops,” explains Jarrod. “Then we’d roll up on them and jump out of the car yelling ‘Get on the ground!’” The dealers, thinking they’d been busted, would fall face first onto the street and give up their stash without a word.

They also found a trove of wannabes in the popular after-hours and rave scene. “Everyone was so happy-go-lucky in those places,” laughs Jarrod. “It was like fishing in a pool.” Jarrod and a few Silver lake boys would show up and ask around about buying some ecstasy. Within minutes a fresh-faced kid with a backpack brimming with X would appear. Instead of a sale, the kid would find himself hauled outside and getting arrested. Or so he thought. “I’d sit him on the curb and get on the phone and pretend I’m calling it in,” explains Jarrod. “I’d be like ‘yeah, I don’t know what to do with this kid. What do you think?’ I’d pretend to listen to an answer and I’d hang up and turn to the kid and say ‘today’s your lucky day,’ as I confiscated the backpack. These kids were so happy not to be going to jail they’d thank me.” While he admits he was a criminal, Tillinghast still conducted himself with a code. “Jarrod hated guns,” says Angell. “He never used ’em. He’d just beat your fucking skull in.”

Sometimes, according to Tillinghast, the dealers would go crying to wiseguys. Ask them to help get back their drugs. But the Silver Lake boys never complied. And Jarrod wasn’t worried about payback. “I got a pass for my dad, my name,” he says. “It gave me leverage. People were gonna think twice about retaliation.”

Jarrod shared his father’s last name, dabbled in the same line of work. but Jarrod was not Jerry. “Jerry Tillinghast was well known for robbing drug dealers,” notes Andrews. But Jarrod’s father’s M.O. wasn’t a left hook.  Jerry was a suspect in the torture and murder of a pair of drug dealers/nightclub owners from Johnston as well as Elliott Bassett, a dealer from Dorchester who was thrown to his death from a New York City hotel window.

You’d think that during their regular phone calls Jarrod might brag about his latest score. Or maybe ask his father for counsel. But Jarrod kept his dad in the dark. “I never told him about robbing,” says Jarrod. “He didn’t want me in trouble. Didn’t want me to go down that path. That I was sure of. So the less he knew the better.”

But why risk his boxing career—and potentially his life—at all? For one, money. Jarrod claims to have made upwards of $150,000 one year. Another reason? The rush. “It was fun,” admits Jarrod. “The robbing, the cash. We had a lotta of laughs.”

Maybe too much fun. Months running the streets with his Silver Lake crew turned into years. His elbow had long healed but Jarrod didn’t walk back into Manfredo’s gym. He couldn’t bring himself to lace up the gloves. Jarrod points to his arm, claims the pain never went away. But more likely it was his heart and the fire that had gone out. In 1991, fellow Rhode Islander Pazienza also suffered a car accident. Broke his neck. Thirteen months later he returned to the ring and beat future WBC champ Luis Santana. “To get back in that ring by yourself takes a special person,” says Burchfield, Sr.. “You have to have a hunger. When you take a long break, get out of that rhythm, you’re making money and not taking punches, why then go back?”

 

iv

Hunger comes in many forms. At 31, Jarrod no longer had the hunger of a pissed off teenager trying to outshine his old man. With a union job as a Rhode Island building inspector, he’d never know the desperation to keep a roof over his head or put food on the table. But in 2006 Tillinghast once again found his hunger—through love.

He met Jordana Ruggeri in the spring. She had the looks, the personality, and the pedigree; a monied, upper-middle-class family— The Brady Bunch that Tillinghast had dreamed about since he could walk.  That October the pair went to see Peter Manfredo Jr. fight at Providence’s Dunkin’ Donuts Civic Center. Jordana had gone to school with Manfredo Jr. and she, like the whole crowd, went crazy as he TKO’d undefeated prospect Joe Spina. Jarrod heard the cheering and saw the awe in his girl’s eyes and suddenly something clicked.

See, that night Jarrod got stabbed with the butcher’s knife changed him. Rodney drove him to Miriam Hospital and somehow he skated out of there with only 40-plus stitches. The cops never found out, the kid he robbed never came back at him, and he didn’t have to spend the next few years looking over his shoulder. But in addition to the scar, Jarrod came away with a vision he couldn’t shake. The future. A future in a cell like his father. Or worse. So after his wound healed, he began to back away from the street life. Distance himself, just a bit, from the Silver Lake boys. He still wanted something more in life. A chance to remind people of his first name, not his last. There, ringside at the Civic Center, the voice that had been whispering “what if?” in Jarrod’s head for the past eight years began screaming. I got a lot left on the table. I can finish what I started.

 

 

He called his longtime friend Joey Acciardo, a football coach at Johnston High School. Within a week Jarrod was sucking wind every morning at dawn doing wind sprints, steps, and gassers with the team. “Did I ask myself if I was making the right decision?” says Tillinghast. “Yeah. Every time that alarm went off.” After three weeks with Acciardo, Jarrod returned to the boxing gym. Working the floor and the treadmill. Sparring, lightly at first, one, two, three rounds. Two months in and Tillinghast had a familiar sensation: he felt, once again, like a fighter.

“A bunch of times he’d talked about coming back but never did it,” recalls his cousin DeRobbio. “This time was different. We were excited for him. He got into great shape. Would he be champ? Anything can happen. But he definitely had something left.”

Eventually Burchfield, Sr. got a call. “I told him get a good physical,” says the promoter. “If the doc says okay, I’ll get you a fight. No problem.” In the first week of May 2007, Tillinghast, in a brown suit and tie, addressed the media about his comeback fight, a card headlined by Manfredo Jr. “I feel like a big brother lost from his family getting reunited again,” said Jarrod. “I’m back. I’m gonna put a couple of years in before fighting for a championship myself.”

The following Friday, the Tillinghast faithful packed the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Jarrod hoped that one fan in particular would be ringside. Jerry Tillinghast, Sr. On January 18, 2007, Jerry walked out of the John J. Moran Security Facility of the Massachusetts ACI (Adult Correctional Institutions) after nearly 30 years in prison. But that seat for the fight would remain empty. “I wanted to go but my parole officer said I couldn’t,” says Jerry. “I got mad. I asked ‘why not?’ He said it was the atmosphere. Not good for guys like me.”

Around 9pm, fans stood up as the lights dimmed. “Wel-come back!” blared out of the arena speakers. “Your dreams are your ticket out.” In his skull-and-crossbones shorts, Jarrod entered the ring to the theme of the hit ’70s TV sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter.” The fight, however, would be far from a joke. His opponent, Jeffrey Osbourne, Jr. (4-4-1) of Davenport, Iowa, wasn’t some hillbilly pushover, but a guy who’d gone to war with five top prospects.

Within the first minute of the bout, Tillinghast’s comeback was in jeopardy. An Osbourne overhand right crushed Jarrod’s nose, spraying blood across his face. But by the second round, the hometown favorite had settled down. Eight-year layoff? Looked like eight months. Jarrod flashed firepower, danced around the ring, traded bombs with the relentless Osbourne.  “This looks like a championship fight!” yelled TV announcer Vinny Pazienza. With the crowd standing for the entire fourth round, Jarrod unleashed a furious barrage of left hooks and right hands. Yet the Iowa middleweight wouldn’t go down; and as the final bell rang, the decision was in the hands of the judges. “After four rounds we have your decision,” proclaimed ring announcer John Vena. “Your winner and still-undefeated Jarrod Tillinghast!”

“It’s hard to describe how you feel at that moment,” says Jarrod, who jumped up and down then lifted Osbourne' hand in the air out of respect. “Hearing your name again like that? It’s electric. A high only a fighter knows.”

For Fight of the Night honors, Jarrod earned a $1K bonus. Anxious to maintain the momentum, Burchfield, Sr. put Tillinghast on a card the following month at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut. Again he electrified the fans, knocking Santiago Hillario unconscious in the first round with a brutal left hook.

It would be the last time Jarrod ever stepped in the ring to fight.

 

 

v

Mist falls on a Saturday night on The Hill, and Jarrod sits in his regular corner of Costantino’s Venda Bar and Ristorante. As the former fighter waits for his boys to show, he sips his Tito’s and soda and tries to explain his decision to leave boxing for a second time. Pressure from his future father-in-law, he says. Get a degree. Go legit. Civilized adults don’t dole out punishment for a living. So a few before days before his August 10th bout at Twin River, Jarrod called Burchfield, Sr. and said he was taking another break. Over the next few years he got a B.A. in Education online from Ashwood University, married Ruggeri in 2011, and had two sons, Sebastian and Julian. “I’ve wanted kids all my life,” beams Tillinghast. “I’m a great daddy.”

As for his own father, Jarrod was thrilled to see him walk free. Happy to have him around. They love each other and both would probably take a bullet for the other, but their relationship is still complicated. “When I came home I said, ‘Listen, we’re not playing catch up,’” says Jerry, in regard to lingering resentment. “‘I’m sorry. I love you. But either we move on together or we don’t. It’s your choice.’” Jarrod insists it’s not his anger that has caused friction but three decades of institutionalized living. “Was I mad at him for spending going to jail? There were moments I was pissed,” says Jarrod. “But I’m over that. I just figured when he came home we’d spend more time together. I guess everyone’s different though. He was programmed different. He’s used to being alone.”

Even with the recent separation from his wife, Jarrod insists life couldn’t be better. For work, he does a bit of private training at Balletto’s Gym in Silver Lake and has recently gotten involved in a VIP travel club that he describes as “Netflix for vacations.” He can’t walk through Providence without friends honking their horn or well wishers him stopping to say hello. He needs an assistant to keep track of his love life.

Despite his laughter and indefatigable optimism, Jarrod can’t fully mask tinges of regret. The choices made. The haunting vestiges of what might have been. A deadly puncher. He could have been a franchise. His people didn’t care what ticket prices were, they wanted to see him. You don’t have that with a lot of fighters. “I left boxing the first time for the wrong reasons,” says Jarrod, stirring his drink. “The second time I left for the right reasons. Both sucked.”

After a couple more Tito’s and sodas, Jarrod mentions an idea he’s had lately. A comeback. “I’m at a five in terms of shape right now, but I’m coming down from 240.” With every sentence his voice grows more animated. “I’d have another fight for all the right reasons. I know at this age the stakes are never higher. My health, my kids. I don’t want to get hurt. But at the same time it’s 100% on the table. It’s why I’m getting down in weight and then I’ll make a decision. I’d still sell seats.”

“I always say I have a first name before a last. My dad is my dad. I’m Jarrod. A whole other beast.  And if you don’t respect Jarrod there’s going to be serious trouble. Never mind the dog, beware of the owner.”

He smiles and finishes his drink. Then he looks over his shoulder to check if any of his Silver Lake boys are rolling up. But through the restaurant window he sees nothing but the dark, misty night.

Some names and identifying features in this story have been changed to protect the privacy of certain individuals.