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Free Study Guide for The Contender by Robert Lipsyte Free BookNotes

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Alfred starts his training with renewed vigor. As days of hard work pass into months, Alfred becomes a picture of fitness. He spars with Angel and Jose at the gym and overpowers them both. Henry and Donatelli are impressed with Alfred’s progress. Everyone, including Alfred, begins to believe that both his mind and body are ready to face an opponent in the boxing ring.

One day, Lou Epstein, Alfred’s employer, visits the gym and sees Alfred hard at work at his training. He is so impressed with Alfred’s progress and determination that he gives the boy a promotion and pay raise at work in order to reward and encourage him. He will be in charge of running the cash register. Alfred is delighted and works harder then ever.


Alfred takes up his training again with a renewed enthusiasm. He works out daily for long hours, fighting pain and exhaustion. He is rewarded with a body that is fit and a mind that is sharp. When he spars with Angel and Jose at the gym, he beats them easily. Everyone, including Donatelli and Alfred, believes it is time to test Alfred in the ring.

Alfred’s training pays dividends not only at the gym, but also at his work place. Lou Epstein, his employer, observes Alfred’s dedication to his training and rewards him with a promotion and pay raise, which pleases Alfred greatly.



Alfred wakes up but stays in bed. Aunt Pearl and the girls are surprised that he has not left to work out. After they leave, Alfred gets up, makes a cup of tea, and waits for Henry to arrive to take him to the gym. Donatelli meets them and takes them out for a special lunch. After lunch, Henry and Alfred go into Manhattan, where they relax at Spoon’s house and wait for him to return from work.

Early in the evening, Spoon and Betty, his wife, arrive. She prepares a delicious dinner. After the meal, Spoon takes Alfred out for a walk and a pep talk. Upon returning, Alfred takes a short nap before leaving for his first boxing match. When Donatelli arrives, Alfred wakes and prepares himself. They soon leave for the arena in Spoon’s car, picking up Bud and Dr. Corey on the way.

Alfred is nervous as Henry and Donatelli lead him to the dressing room. After putting on his protective plates, Alfred dresses in his black boxing trunks. Donatelli and Bud then give him a body massage to relax him before he heads to the ring to fight Joe Rivera, his opponent for the evening.

In the ring, Alfred is intimidated by Joe’s muscular appearance; he is also bothered by the glaring lights and the loud noises of the arena. As a result, he performs poorly in the first round and is easily overpowered by Joe. At the end of the round, Alfred is hurt and exhausted, but determined. In the second round, Alfred fights with more courage, takes Joe by surprise, and wins the round. During the break Donatelli reminds Alfred to ignore the remarks of the crowd, which seems to be bothering him, and concentrate on his technique of "hit and run." In the rest of the match, Alfred forgets his master’s words, for he is bothered by the jeering of the crowd; however, he still wins the fight, even though he gets badly hurt in the process. Although most people congratulate Alfred on his victory, Donatelli is concerned over the fact that Alfred did not defend himself better and has been seriously wounded.


Although it is the day of Alfred’s first boxing match, he does not tell Aunt Pearl or his cousins, for he does not want them worrying about him. When Alfred does not get up early to go and work out as usual, the family wonders if something is wrong with him. Instead, it is the most exciting day of his life. He finally has the chance to do what he been training for months to accomplish.

Alfred is pampered throughout the day before the night of his first fight. In the morning Henry picks him up and takes him to the gym. Donatelli takes him out for a special lunch. He then spends the afternoon relaxing at Spoon’s house in Manhattan, and Spoon’s wife, Betty, fixes him a delicious dinner. He is driven to the match in Spoon’s car and is led to the dressing room by Henry and Donatelli. After donning his black boxing shorts, Donatelli gives him a massage to relax him before the fight.

In spite of his preparations, Alfred feels nervous when he enters the ring. He is intimidated by the muscular appearance of Joe Rivera, his opponent. He is also bothered by the bright lights and the noise of the crowd. As a result, he boxes poorly in the first round and is easily overpowered by the quick moves of Rivera. When the crowd jeers him and makes rude comments, Alfred is unnerved by what he hears.

In the second round, he fares better, for he has become adjusted to his surroundings. He is pleased to win the round. Encouraged by his victory in the last round, Alfred is able to deal some serious blows to his opponent in the third round, finally overpowering him: however, the comments of the crowd distract him and he allows Joe to hurt him. Donatelli expresses his concern over Alfred’s distraction and injury.

Alfred gets the first taste of success and disappointment. He experiences the glare and stare of a live audience and goes through the pangs of anxiety and nervousness. He learns that it is not as easy to perform in a real boxing ring and compete with a good boxer as it is to practice at the gym against other trainees. Although he wins the match, he is disappointed that he allows himself to be injured and to be bothered by a jeering crowd.

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