Listening to Mark Frazie describe his dream for the Hooks for Books Center at the old naval building at 2010 Charles Street, one can almost hear the first bars of Survivor’s 1982 hit “Eye of the Tiger.”
The Billboard 100 No. 1 song featured prominently in the third film of the “Rocky” movie franchise about a boxer that rises from ambiguity to stardom — a fitting metaphor for the mission of Hooks for Books.
Hooks for Books is a non-profit organization run by Frazie and is dedicated to creating opportunities for area students to perform, set new goals and reach new heights in a controlled competitive environment.
Hooks for Books the organization is best known for the Hooks for Books event, which started six years ago and has grown each season.
This year’s event will be Feb. 19 and 20 at Minford Middle School. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults and will be available on a first come, first serve basis.
The event raises money that goes directly back to area schools in the form of scholarships and other services. In the six years of the program, Hooks for Books has raised more than $50,000 dollars for area students.
At the event, area students are paired up based on weight and ability against students from different schools and get a chance to experience the sport of boxing. There will be roughly 20 fights over the two day event.
“It’s really turned in to a household name,” said Frazie, who serves as coach, president and organizer of the event.
Attending this year’s event will be several celebrities including Don Gullett, Al Oliver, Gene Bennett, Tokey Hill of the Arnold Classic and James “Bonecrusher” Smith, the first heavyweight champion boxer to have a college degree. He was WBA champion in 1987.
Teachers and veterans are also honored at the event and a pair of teachers will win a vacation to the Smokey Mountains.
Frazie, perhaps better known as the “Golden Boy” from his 18 year boxing career, runs not only the event but the Hooks for Books Center, a boxing gym and tutoring center.
The gym's entrance is an unmarked door on the side of what is clearly an old building. After a walk down a dim hallway, visitors walk up a flight of stairs and come face to face with the beginning of Frazie’s dream.
Upstairs is the home of the Hooks for Books boxing operation, run by Frazie and fellow retired boxer Bob Sparks, as well as the Hard Knocks MMA gym run by Joe Collins and Mike Wells.
There is an MMA mat, several heavy bags, speed bags and of course a boxing ring.
The gym has been open for two weeks. Cost of attending the gym is $25 a month for students and $35 a month for non-students.
The building, in need of some repair, is being serviced by students of the Scioto Country Career Technical Center. If Frazie has his way, it won’t be long until the center includes a weight room, boys and girls locker rooms, classrooms and updated shower facilities.
Frazie started Hooks for Books and the Hooks for Books Center not to train athletes, but to help kids out. Frazie points out that a memory, such as getting a chance to compete in boxing, is something that can last a lifetime.
“I don’t know what is going to happen to these kids,” Frazie said. “But I do know what is going to happen to them while they’re here.
“We’re making heroes one round at a time,” Frazie added, echoing the Hooks for Books motto. “Its about giving these kids a memory. Being there for them.”
Sparks added another mantra of Hooks for Books.
“There are no losers at Hooks for Books,” he said.
For Frazie, a well-known figure, the reward for all his work is simple satisfaction.
“To see the kids expression when they get a chance to try to reach a goal, there’s no money that can pay for that,” he said.
For more information visit www.hooksforbooks.org or call Frazie at 357-4744. For information on Hard Knocks MMA contact Collins at (740) 352-8235.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com