Zack Dillow, 31, of Wheelersburg, remembers watching his idol Rocky Balboa since he was just a little kid.
Admittedly obsessed with boxing, Dillow says, “I always watched Rocky. I have all the Rocky movies.”
Growing up, he could think of nothing better than being like his hero.
“I always wanted to be in the ring,” Dillow said.
Until the opening of Phil Bender’s Hardknocks Training Center, that dream seemed just that, it could not be reality. Dillow grew up with many challenges resulting from a developmental disability that limits him from taking part in activities that are normal for most people. The demands of becoming a fighter, however, are even more than those without a disability such as Dillow’s could endure. Many gyms and trainers would turn someone like Dillow away. However, Bender did not open the gym to turn out professional fighters (though some of the fighters are going pro). Rather, Bender had a mission to change lives—all lives. Dillow was no exception.
“He came to me and said this was his dream, so I said come on, buddy,” Bender commented. “He loves it, and we all love him.”
Dillow has a caregiver that brings him to the gym three nights a week and stays while he trains. The fighter says he works at Little Caesars, where everyone is nice to him. However, Dillow says he has been bullied at school and used to feel afraid. Since he has been working out, he says he is no longer scared because he can defend himself, even though, he stressed that he is not allowed to fight outside of the gym. In addition to feeling better about himself and getting into shape, Dillow is really happy to be a part of the gym.
“It’s really fun,” he said. “I want to do it everyday.”
Dillow added that he has made some significant life changes since joining Hardknocks.
“I don’t play video games anymore,” he boasted proudly. “I hate basketball and soccer. This gets me excited.”
Dillow does not know it yet, but Bender has some big plans for him. The coach is currently working out a special fight just for Dillow against one of his coaches, so that he can get his first win and get some trophies and awards like the other fighters. Once that happens, Dillow will have finally realized the dream that he has played in his mind so many times.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1924.