During the course of THE CONTENDER, by Robert Lipsyte, Alfred is influenced by several characters who help him grow, change and learn. Two of the most important were Mr. Donatelli, the owner of the gym, and Alfred's Aunt Pearl. Mr. Donatelli had a positive influence on Alfred, helping him in a variety of ways.

When Alfred first came to the gym Mr. Donatelli questioned him to make sure Alfred had what it took to be a boxer. He noticed from Alfred's scars that he'd been fighting on the streets. He' explained all the ups and downs of boxing to make sure that it was what Alfred really wanted to do. "' You " re all alone in there with another man who wants to hit you harder than you hit him.

There's rules and a referee to make sure you follow those rules. It's not the street you have to earn your way in there, you have to work hard for it. Most kids leave.' " He helped Alfred learn the techniques to boxing. Mr.

Donatelli also helped Alfred have confidence in himself. "' Boxing is more than just fighting, it's about being a contender it's the climbing that makes the man. Getting to the top is an extra reward.' " In Alfred's last fight against Hubbard, Mr. Donatelli didn't want Alfred to fight because he feared that Alfred would get hurt; but Alfred wanted to fight Hubbard to feel that he'd accomplished something "' Remember what you said Mr.

Donatelli, about quitting before you " ve really tried I've got to finish so I can know too'" Boxing not only taught Alfred skill but helped him reach deep down and bring out the real contender inside. Another influential person was Alfred's Aunt Pearl. Aunt Pearl always wanted the best for Alfred. She was proud when she found out he was finally interested in something; the only thing was she didn't like the fact that it was boxing." ' you never been excited 'bout anything in your life till today. But I just wish it was somethin else.' " Even though she didn't approve of boxing, she supported Alfred's desire to try.

Aunt Pearl always had confidence in Alfred. During all the tough times Aunt Pearl was always there to listen to whatever Alfred had to say. "' What's troubling you Alfred You been so quiet. You want to talk about it When you do, you know you can always talk to me.' " She was also very concerned when he didn't come home, looked beat up, and when he was feeling down. "' Alfred, someone after you I ain't gonna press you, you do a man's work and I ain't gonna treat you like a boy. But I know something's wrong! Streets are full of men hangin' around, waitin' for trouble!' " Aunt Pearl was always there for Alfred during the tough times.

These people helped Alfred become a good, honest, hard-working, contender. Without their help Alfred could have been roaming the streets with a gang, not caring about anyone, anything and especially about himself.