Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Fights broke out at Minford Middle School on Friday, but it was all for a good cause. The 10th Annual Hooks For Books puts students in the boxing ring to raise money for local schools.
Mark “Golden Boy” Frazie is a retired middleweight boxer from Portsmouth. He began his career in 1980 and finished in 1988 with a record of 29 wins and 10 losses. Now Frazie owns a gym on Charles Street in Portsmouth — the old Naval building which was donated to him by the city of Portsmouth. Students and adults alike are invited to train in Frazie’s gym free of charge.
“The city gave me that building to do something free for the kids and I’m not going to let the city down,” Frazie said, calling his gym a ministry to help kids in the community find an outlet for their feelings and keep them off the streets.
He came up with the idea of Hooks For Books in 2004 while speaking at an event in Chicago.
“They kept talking about the inner city schools gang fights they’ve been having, and I said, ‘Put them in the ring. They’ve got gloves on, so they can’t stab or shoot nobody.’ So I came back and started talking to the superintendents and principals at high schools, and I said, ‘What if I put all these high schools and junior highs against each other in boxing and we give money back to the school?’ And they thought that was a really good idea,” Frazie said.
The event makes its money with tickets for admissions ($5 for students, $10 for adults), sponsors and paid table exhibits. Since it began in 2004, Frazie said they have given more than $62,000 to Scioto County Schools. Four schools are selected to split the money each year. Frazie chooses three new schools each year (this year is New Boston, Portsmouth, and Sciotoville) and Minford always gets money for hosting the event.
Anyone, age 12-19, is invited to box with no previous experience or training needed.
“Most of the kids I get, they’ve already tried the other sports. They’re not fast enough or not big enough. It doesn’t make any difference. This is something, they say, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ I always tell people, if you like boxing don’t come out. Because you ain’t going to see that. But you’re going to see so much heart in this, it’s just amazing,” Frazie said.
“Moms, dads, mamaws, papaws, anybody can come out and they don’t have to worry about nothing. This is a clean place. I got over 20-some schools in there and everybody’s getting along. You want to see great sportsmanship? These kids demonstrate great sportsmanship.”
He said the schools have also told him how big a difference they see in students after they compete in Hooks For Books.
“Sometimes they just needed a little break. Something to say, ‘You know what, I am worth it’,” Frazie said. “I hear so much good things from the schools and from parents and grandparents. Win or lose, it don’t make any difference. There’s no losers out there. The thing is, they got the courage to go out there and do this. To step between the ropes, which is the biggest stage in the world.”
It’s not all about boxing though. Hooks for Books also has a singing competition and takes the top four to Nashville, Tenn., for a chance to win a recording contract.
As another way to give back to schools and honor teachers, Hooks For Books also selects one school each year from which Frazie picks two teachers to honor with a special dinner. Honored this year, with a special dinner at Gatti’s Pizza in Portsmouth, was Vicki Walker and Carol Kennedy from Portsmouth City Schools as well as Karen Charles from Sciotoville. Frazie said Charles was added this year because she does so much paperwork to help Hooks for Books.
Hooks For Books is an annual event in Scioto County on the last week of February. This year’s event was Friday and Saturday at Minford Middle School. The rest of the year, the community is invited to exercise and train for free in his gym in Portsmouth, which is open on Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.