Donatelli From the Book: The Contender

A simple character sketch about Donatelli from the book The Contender by Robert Lypsite.

In the book The Contender by Robert Lypsite, Coach Donatelli is a very unique character. He is a boxing coach who runs a run-down gym in New York. He is very poor and lives in a small room next to the gym. He has also had a few champion boxers who fought in Madison Square Garden. He is a static character, he does not change from the beginning of the novel to the end.

Donatelli is very demanding. He knows what he wants and expects his fighters to follow it. He won’t let anyone into a boxing ring until you meet his very high standards. When Alfred comes into the gym for the first time on page 24-5, wanting to be a fighter, Donatelli says this to him:

“You get up at five-thirty in the morning… you run in the park to build stamina…Then you go home and eat breakfast. Juice, two hard boiled eggs, toast and tea…don’t eat too much lunch. No fried foods, no beans, no cabbage, no pies and cakes, no soda. After, you work at the gym. Jump rope, Keep-knee bends. Do them until you can’t do anymore. Then start all over again. You go home, have a good dinner. Meat green vegetables, fresh salad, milk fruit, you’re asleep by nine o’clock.

Donatelli also expects complete focus and 110 percent from all of his trainees. He needs perfection and nobody fights until he gets it. When you are in a fight he is constantly urging you to improve and be better prepared. When Alfred is sparring on page 79 Donatelli pushes him to fight harder, saying: “Snap the jab out harder, harder” Donatelli is a very demanding person, but everything he does is to improve the way that the kids fight.

Donatelli is also very callous. He speaks his mind and lets people know what he thinks. He is tough and needs his fighters to be tough and to be able to accept criticism. An example of this is when Donatelli is talking to Alfred on page 27 he says “Sometimes kids come up here and want to get in that ring and knock somebody’s head off. No chance. You have to earn you way in there…Most kids leave.” Another time on page 78, Alfred was beating the peanut bad, making it sound like a machine gun, “Henry would watch him, grinning, as if he was really doing something, but Donatelli would walk by without even looking.” He knows that in the long run, babying them will not help them improve their skills. Donatelli does and says what he needs to, even if it hurts the feelings of his fighters.

Thirdly Donatelli is a very competent trainer and manager. On page 77, Alfred was talking to Lou Epstein, one of Donatelli’s former champs. Lou says, “Donatelli is one in a million. That’s why he has to sleep in a room by the gym”. Donatelli is an amazing man, who is completely devoted to the sport of boxing and he understands that even if he has to live next to the gym to train the fighters, he will do it for the love of the sport. An example of how experienced Donatelli is when his champion Willie Streeter was fighting in Madison Square Garden. Willie was hit hard, and got a cut near his eye. It was the first bad injury he had ever had. Donatelli saw that Willie was afraid; Willie was protecting the eye and taking a lot of punches. Donatelli called a TKO (Technical Knock Out) and stopped the fight. By doing this Donatelli kept Willie from being hurt even more during the fight. Afterwards, when Alfred, Jelly, Henry and Spoon are walking towards Spoon’s car on page 61, Spoon says:

“It was a bad cut, but if Willie and forgotten about it and kept pressing Becker he would have won, he might even have knocked him out in that round. But he got scared, it was the first time he had ever gotten hurt, really hurt and he got scared. The way he concentrated on protecting that eye left him wide open. Mr.Donatelli saw that and stopped the fight to save him from being hurt and to save him, I think, from showing himself a coward in from of the crowd. I can’t think of another manager who would have done that.”

He makes excellent decisions, even when other people don’t realize the reasoning behind them.

Throughout the book, Donatelli doesn’t change, he remains very static. He continues to live next to the gym, training wannabe fighters. He still is very callous, telling every kid who comes in what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He still expects perfection from his fighters, both in training and in a real fight. He continues to coach and manage Willie Streeter and making the decisions that puzzle all other managers. Donatelli is a competent, callous, and demanding person who stays static throughout the novel.

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  1. Dan
    Posted December 7, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    Amazing, so insightful

  2. Katie
    Posted January 12, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    I like it! It’s a good book

  3. Jessica
    Posted January 12, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    It’s great you should read it!

  4. Stupid kid
    Posted January 12, 2008 at 3:59 pm


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  7. KiLl ThE eMoS
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    I think that i love this book because it almost aplies to all the kids that are from around here, the ghetto…

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  11. Wondering
    Posted December 4, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    What age group is this book for?

  12. Good Book
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    i liked the book but i thought the ending wasent the best he should have kept it going a little more

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