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THE CONTENDER-FREE STUDY GUIDE
Alfred goes to Madison Square Gardens with Henry and Jelly Belly. He is amazed to see the crowd that fills the hall and stares in wonder at the lighted ring, encircled by a velvet rope. As Alfred talks to Henry and Jelly Belly, Donatelli, Dr. Corey, and Bud arrive with Willie Streeter, the boxer who is to fight. When the referee introduces Willie and his opponent, Julius Becker, the crowd cheers.
The boxing match begins and gathers speed. In the third round, both fighters are injured. Willie is hurt so badly that he loses his will to fight. Donatelli stops the match and leads Willie to the dressing room. When Willie complains about Donatelli stopping the fight, Bud becomes upset and defends Donatelliís action as correct. He tells Willie that he behaved like a coward in the ring and made a fool of himself before the crowd.
Back at the gym, Alfred meets Wither Spoon, a former heavy weight champion, turned teacher. Spoonís refinement greatly impresses Alfred. As he walks home, Alfred thinks about dayís events, especially about his meeting Spoon. Suddenly, he hears approaching footsteps and comes face to face with Major.
After starting on a low note, Alfredís day improves until he comes face to face with Major. After being unfairly questioned by a variety of people and working at his job without excitement, Alfred is not in a very good mood. He carries the troubles of his day into the gym. He is bothered by the noise and the fact that no one pays him any attention. When he talks with Dr. Corey, things begin to improve. Alfred feels encouraged enough to try some exercises, which he completes successfully. He then meets Bud, the assistant manager of the gym, and is impressed by his practical sense and discipline. Alfred then becomes really excited when Bud asks him to come to the boxing match at Madison Square Gardens.
Alfred is amazed to see the crowd inside the arena and he looks in wonder at the ring. When Willie Streeter (from Donatelliís Gym) and Julius Becker are introduced as the boxers, Alfred cheers with the rest of the crowd. He then stares in amazement at the ferocity of the fighters and begins to understand the risk involved in boxing. When both boxers are injured in the third round, he sees Willie losing interest and courage. Donatelli finally stops the fight and leads Willie away.
Alfred now sees Donatelli in a new light. Although he is a dedicated trainer and a strict disciplinarian, he also has a tender heart and cares about his fighters as human beings, trying to protect them. When Willie complains about Donatelli stopping the fight, Bud intervenes and says that Donatelli has done the right thing. Willie was fighting so poorly, he was certain to have been seriously hurt, which Donatelli wanted to prevent. Bud scolds Willie for his loss of courage and fight.
Alfred has fully enjoyed being at Madison Square Gardens and watching the boxing match; but his day improves further when he meets Wither Spoon, a past champion. When Spoon retired from the ring, he finished his education and became a teacher. He is now a happily married man living a contented life in Manhattan. As Alfred walks towards home, he thinks about the good things that have happened during his day and subconsciously decides he wants to be like Spoon. In the midst of his positive thoughts, Alfred ironically comes face to face with his enemy, Major.
Major and Hollis waylay Alfred and threaten to harm him. Alfred is scared but puts on a brave front. When Major asks him to help them rob the Epsteins the following Friday, Alfred refuses to co- operate. Major then asks Alfred to loosen the wires of the burglar alarm so the burglary will go undetected. When Alfred turns down this second request, Major threatens him with a knife. Alfred, however, remains unmoved. Although Major feels temporarily defeated, he asks Alfred to reconsider his proposal and answer him by Thursday. Alfred ignores his appeal and walks into his house.
In this chapter, Alfred proves that he is undergoing a transformation. In the beginning of the novel, Alfred lacked self- confidence and succumbed to the taunts of Major. Now, however, Alfred stands up to his enemy by refusing to be bullied into robbing the Epsteins or disarming their alarm system. It is clear that his experiences at the gym have already made him more confident in his abilities and more certain of what he wants in life. Major is shocked at Alfredís new boldness. By standing up to Major, Alfred taken a giant step in establishing his identity as an individual.