The bell sounds and Zack Day pounces like a tiger on its prey.
He grunts and snorts as he pops a few mighty jabs. He then unleashes a killer right kick that has broken nose written all over it.
The man known in the kickboxing world as "Zack Attack" loves to hit.
Good thing training partner Paul Pearman is clad in full protective gear.
"This guy is an animal, just relentless" Pearman said. "His liver could be falling out, and he'd still come right at you. He's as tough as they come."
By day, he's a mortgage loan officer and father of two children. He stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 160 pounds in a neatly-pressed golf shirt and slacks. He looks every bit the mild-mannered business and family man.
Inside the ring, his alter-ego takes over. He becomes a little keg of dynamite.
The "Zack Attack" is out for blood, and losing is not an option.
"I flip the switch, and I'm a different person," Day said. "When the bell sounds, I'm coming after you, and I'm not letting up until I knock you out."
That mentality has made Day one of the most successful and feared kickboxers in the nation. Next Friday, the 39-year-old Augustan hopes to show the world what he's made of.
Less than two years after turning professional, Day will fight an undercard bout at the nation's premier kickboxing event, the K-1 Battle of the Bellagio at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The event is billed as the Super Bowl of kickboxing.
"It's a big honor to be invited to fight in a worldwide event like this," said Day, during a recent training session at Powerhouse Gym. "It's a very big deal. Could be a big break for me."
After a successful amateur career during which he won U.S. titles in his weight class, Day turned pro and quickly moved up the ranks. He won his first two pro bouts and enters Friday's fight ranked No. 8 in the world in the International Kickboxing Federation middleweight division.
Armed with killer instinct, grit and boundless energy, Day has come a long way in a short time.
Day got his start nine years ago at the Augusta Martial Arts Academy, owned and operated by Assistant District Attorney Mike Carlson.
Over the years, Day has fought and defeated many of the nation's top kickboxers, some more than 15 years his junior.
"I didn't start fighting until I was 30, with Mike Carlson, who has a great program, Day said. "He brought me along and showed me the ropes to get me to a high level of competition. I had a special skill I didn't know I had. I just wish I knew earlier."
Day believes he already would be a world champion had he discovered his talent earlier.
He refuses to let age - or even a broken nose suffered in a sparring session in July - stop him now.
"I always knew I could fight because I had that toughness and high level of pain tolerance and sticktuitiveness," Day said. "My fiancee has asked me when I was going to stop fighting and, at 39, it's something I guess you think about. But I feel better now than I've ever felt in my life, and I'm fortunate my fiancee has been so supportive. I'm not going to stop until I win a world championship or until I find out I'm not good enough anymore."
Who: Augusta's Zack Day is a professional kickboxer and four-time U.S. Amateur kickboxing champion.
What: Day is preparing to fight an undercard superfight bout in the world's premier kickboxing event, the K-1 Battle of Bellagio.
When: Friday, Aug. 15. The event is available live on pay-per-view. Day said his bout will not be shown live, but likely will air on ESPN at a later date.
Where: The Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Why: Day, a 39-year-old middleweight ranked No. 8 in the world, said his goal is to win a world championship. "I'm not going to stop until I win a world championship or until I find out I'm not good enough anymore."
How: Most area martial arts schools offer kickboxing classes, including the Augusta Martial Arts Academy, where Day got his start. For information on kickboxing classes, call the Augusta Martial Arts Academy at 706-855-5269. Information on professional kickboxing can be found on the Internet at www.ikfkickboxing.com.
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425.
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