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The Contender

The following collection of thematically related readings is available in The Contender and Related Readings in McDougal Littell's Literature Connections series.

"The Seventh Round" by James Merrill
(from The Yellow Pages, © 1974)
Summary: As the crowd at ringside screams for blood, the speaker of this poem tries to withstand a barrage of blows.

"Fury" by T. Ernesto Bethancourt
(from Ultimate Sports, © 1995)
Summary: In this short story, an uncle tries to help his wayward nephew get the discipline he needs to succeed in the ring and in life.

"A Crown of Wild Olive" by by Rosemary Sutcliff
(from Heather, Oak and Olive)
Summary: Two athletes from different ways of life discover the meaning of friendship as they compete against each other in the ancient Olympic games.

Excerpt from Black Boy by Richard Wright, © 1945
Summary: In this excerpt from his autobiography, Richard Wright recalls a lesson in courage that his mother taught him.

"Joan Benoit: 1984 U.S. Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist" by Rina Ferrarelli
Summary: The speaker of this poem admires the poise, control, and "inner rhythm" of a remarkable runner in the heat of competition.

Muhammad Ali by Bill Littlefield
(from Champions, © 1993)
Summary: This excerpt from a biography focuses on the legendary boxer whose private struggles were as riveting as his battles in the ring.

"To a Field Goal Kicker in a Slump" by Linda Pastan
(from A Fraction of Darkness, © 1985)
Summary: This poem is about the frustrations of a place-kicker who is not getting the job done.