The Contender, by Robert Lipsyte, is the story of a high-school dropout named Alfred who makes a hard choice to turn away from a life on the streets of Harlem (and all the trouble that entails) and begin training as a boxer. He begins his training in chapter nine.
Alfred works at Epstein's grocery store, and after work he goes to the gym to train. For the first week or two, he is stiff and sore; however, he soon begins to feel strong. One day he is doing a little shadow boxing when Epstein, a former boxer, catches him and is impressed. His boss gives Alfred some encouragement, which is a stark contrast to what he is hearing from his family and friends. Eventually Alfred's after-work practices lead him into the ring.