A powerful autobiographical first novel about a confused young man who finds himself in the boxing ring.It's 1971, and Pete Watt is a white kid from the New Jersey suburbs illegally entered in the middleweight division of the New York Golden Gloves Tournament. To say that Pete has a lot of personal problems is understatement: he hates his stepfather, and his mother (because she married his stepfather), and the kids at school who tease him, and his high-school counselors who don't understand him. But all of this comes together in the ring to make him a vicious southpaw boxer--a ""pet tiger,"" in the words of his trainer, crusty old Tom Brandy. Pete becomes a tournament favorite as he mows down his opponents in the prelims, quarterfinals, and semis (so much so that officials are afraid to oust him even when they find out he's not from New York), and is all set to knock off an inferior boxer in a glorious finale in Madison Square Garden. But instead Pete loses (partly because of a spy in his camp) and ends up learning that even losing can help him mature. Standard melodrama, to be sure, but written in a tough-as-nails, realistic prose style by Wood. who is a former Golden Gloves finalist himself. There are classic descriptions of fights, boxing characters, and the gymnasium where Watt trains. And although plagued at times by purplish prose (""I looked out the window. The sky skulked. There were no stars, only the black, negro night"") and uneven plotting, this is a compelling first effort that is--if not exactly a knockout--definitely a TKO.