Newmarket teacher has shot at Golden Gloves regional title
NEWMARKET -- Ryan Clark tries to keep his work in the classroom and the ring separate, but he can't hide the occasional shiner from students.
"I've come in with a black eye here and there, and they're kids, so they ask questions, and you have to explain it to them after that," he said.
Clark is a paraprofessional who spends his days working with special-education students at Newmarket Junior/Senior High School.
After school, the 25-year-old from Barrington slides his hands into a pair of boxing gloves.
Clark moonlights as a fighter who's been training hard at Bare Knuckle Murphy's Academy in Manchester.
And it seems all that hard work has paid off for the 152-pound amateur.
Clark will have a shot at a regional title when he competes Tuesday in the semifinal for the Golden Gloves New England Championships at Lowell (Mass.) Memorial Auditorium. He earned a spot in the championships after recently winning the Lowell district in the Golden Gloves competition.
His recent success in the ring came as a surprise to Newmarket principal Chris Andriski, who had no idea that Clark was a boxer until a staffer read about one his fights last month and mentioned it to him.
Andriski and other school colleagues now plan to watch his fight if he makes it into the final.
"The work that he puts in at the gym is the same type of work that he puts in here. The guy works his tail off," Andriski said. "We're just really proud of him and supportive."
Clark began his full-time job at the school in August.
He has undergraduate degrees in sociology and justice studies, and a master's degree in criminal justice. While he's considered a law-enforcement career, Clark has enjoyed working with the students and may stay in education.
"Ever since I started this job, I'm looking more toward working as an educator in the special-education department," he said.
When he's not at school or fighting, Clark often volunteers his time to help improve the lives of local youth. His efforts include helping with Special Olympics and being a big brother through the Big Brother/Big Sister program for the past five years.
"I've got a little buddy that I take out, so I spend some time with him on the weekends," Clark said.
He would like to box professional someday, but he said his day job comes first.
"This is my life after work. I'm not in it for the money," he said of his boxing. "I just enjoy it, and if I can somehow use this to help kids out along the way, then that would be great."
A Dover High School graduate who played football and baseball for the Green Wave, Clark has boxed off and on for the last three years. He said what he likes most about his current sport is the discipline it requires.
"It definitely keeps me grounded and keeps me humble and gives me a lot to look forward to each and every day," he said. "It creates a challenge."
Clark's amateur career began to take off after he hooked up with Billy Rollins, a retired professional boxer from Barrington who expressed interest in training Clark after seeing him fight.
"His work ethic is unbelievable. No one works harder, and that's why I love the guy," Rollins said.
Clark is now coached by Linda Murphy at Bare Knuckle Murphy's.
She described him as a genuinely nice guy, but one who's really tough when he needs to be.
"He's just a joy to work with because he's such a good person, but he's so tough at the same time and brings that to the guys at the gym when he comes in to spar," Murphy said. "He has a lot of energy, and he can put the pressure on the other guy and just keep it."
Clark's girlfriend, Stacie Hale, also has been impressed by his boxing skills but admitted that watching her boyfriend in the ring isn't easy.
"I think I enjoy watching him because I know how passionate he is about it," said Hale, a nursing student who helped treat one of Clark's recent black eyes.
She described Clark as a "machine" when he's in the ring, but said he's a different person when he's not fighting.
"He's the most gentle person you'll ever meet," she said.