Heavyweight outside the ring hopes to become one inside

Street Stories

NORTH PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A kid named “Pi” is hoping a look at him now will give you the “before” picture.

Mario Pi is a Johnston 10th grader who was looking for a way to lose at least 100 pounds, but he did not have enough money for the dues at a local boxing gym.

“I wanted to box, get in shape,” Pi recalled.

When he walked into Legendary Boxing RI, owner Jarrod Tillinghast wasn’t sure what to do, but he could tell Pi was sincere.

“When Mario came through the door. How do I say no? ” Tillinghast said.

The story swirled through social media and one of Tillinghast’s friends soon stepped up and sponsored Pi.

“Get ready to fight,” Tillinghast said from the ring. “1, 2, 3, 4. Nope.”

Pi makes a few corrections and goes back to work. The session marks the end of two weeks in the gym.

Now, the weigh in.

“Don’t lean on anything,” Tillinghast said. “Put your hands by your side.”

Pi started at 312 pounds.

“304,” Tillinghast said with a smile, followed by a high five.

Pi is also excited by the progress.

“I feel good, and I’m trying to work and lose weight to keep it going,” Pi said. “Eat healthy food and get away from the junk food.”

Tillinghast knows a few things about making a comeback, whether in the ring or in life.

“You start from the bottom. And I’ve been there. I know how to get off the canvas and do it,” he said.

When Pi told his mother, Donna Veillette, he wanted to box to lose weight, she wasn’t sure how that would work.

She’s was ecstatic to hear that a sponsor was going to help, and the weight loss is not the only difference she’s noticed.

“This is going to help bring his confidence up again and be more verbal,” Veillette said, adding that her son has needed help educationally over the years.

The rookie boxer knows what he wants out of the sport.

“To feel lighter, to have more stamina,” he said. “To feel good about myself. He’s teaching me how to live a longer life and live better.”

Tillinghast said the interest in the gym from other boxers has been great, and Pi has earned the recognition.

“There’s so much gratification starting from the bottom and working your way to where you want to be,” he said. “And it’s baby steps. I’m super excited for him.”

The end goal is for Pi’s weight to drop into the low 200’s and Tillinghast has told Pi that even if he never fights in a ring, boxing will help him on and off the canvas.

Email Walt at wbuteau@wpri.com with you story ideas and follow us on Twitter: @StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.

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