The Contender By Robert Lipsyte
Alfred Brooks is scared. He's a high school dropout and his grocery store job is leading nowhere. His best friend is sinking further and further into drug addiction. Some street kids are after him for something he didn't even do. So Aflred begins going to Donatelli's Gym, a boxing club in Harlem that's trained champions. There he learns it's the effort, not the win, that makes the man, that last desperate struggle to get back on your feet when you thought you were down for the count.