A Clenched Fist


Does amateur boxing teach young people anything besides how to land a jarring punch? Is boxing even a sport, like basketball? And why do boxers embrace the sweet agony of prizefighting at all?

 Former Golden Gloves title contender Peter Wood explores the unseen world of gym rats and bad apples, and how pain forges athletic beauty, in his new memoir, A Clenched Fist—The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion.



The book recalls Peter’s experiences coaching graceless, troubled, inner-city kids to be warriors.

 “I teach kids to fight,” he says. “Without their realizing it, I sculpt their suffering into beauty. I chisel their anger and fear into confidence and power.”    

A literary blend of Rocky and Up the Down Staircase, A Clenched Fist follows two teens as they try to navigate the merciless gauntlet of training, sparring and proving themselves in the ring. Both boys, and their coach, have demons lurking—but only one of them finds the courage to win.

 The book couldn’t come at a better time. America is infatuated with boxing:

What explains this obsession? “Essentially, boxing transports us back to what we were before we became civilized,” the author believes. “Boxers are our civilized cavemen.”

 A Clenched Fist differs from all other boxing books because its backdrop is the amateur competition known as the Golden Gloves Tournament. The book brings the intriguing subculture of amateur boxing up close.

Fist will also delight readers with boxing trivia, such as the “Jack Johnson Kiss” that’s passed down to every generation; speculation about why so few boxers die of cancer; the many similarities between boxers and monks; and even Mike Tyson’s rumored bisexuality.

Rave Reviews for A Clenched Fist!!!


“Wood, a former amateur fighter, jabs and punches his words. His paragraphs are quick flurries and each chapter is an exciting, hard-fought round.  A Clenched Fist is a definite knockout!”

Alex Ramos, 4-Time NYC Golden Gloves Champion; Founder of Retired Boxers Foundation


 “Wood writes like I used to fight—with blood, guts and courage.”

Vito Antuofermo, 1970 NYC Golden Gloves Champion; 1978 Middleweight World Champion


A Clenched Fist is a raw, vivid and rare glimpse into a fighter’s heart, mind and soul.  It’s impossible to read this book unmoved.  It’s like sitting ringside and getting your shirt splattered with warm blood.  Don’t miss it!”

Gerry Cooney, 2-Time NYC Golden Gloves Champion; Founder of F.I.S.T., an organization that helps former fighters.


A Clenched Fist is a sick and beautiful book—just like boxing is a sick and beautiful sport.  I couldn’t put it down.”

Mark Breland, 5-Time NYC Golden Gloves Champion; 1984 Olympic Gold Medal winner; WBA World Champion 


“Wood, as a middleweight, hit his opponents on the head with punches; now he hits the reader in the brain with words.  Fist is an exciting, insightful and inspiring book about the courageous men and women who step into the ring to prove themselves.”

Bert Sugar, Internationally acclaimed boxing writer; Former Editor-Publisher of The Ring


“If Peter Wood was as good a boxer then as he is a writer now, we'd be watching his old championship fights on ESPN Classic. He throws a sweet sentence and can knock you out with a paragraph.”

Robert Lipsyte, Author of The Contender, and award-winning New York Times columnist


Peter Wood was a New York Golden Gloves middleweight finalist in 1971. He later was asked to represent the U.S. in international competition in Montreal, and was America’s 1st alternate in the Maccabian Games (the Jewish Olympics) in Tel Aviv. His previous works include the autobiography Confessions of a Fighter (originally entitled To Swallow a Toad), the plays Candy Bars and Our Similarities Are Different, and columns in The New York Times, Commonweal, The Ring and Boxing Illustrated. He teaches English in suburban New York, where he resides with his wife and daughter.

(A Clenched Fist: The Making of a Golden Gloves Champion by Peter Wood; ISBN 0-9789683-0-1; $19.95; soft cover; 5½ x 8½; 240 pages; RINGSIDE BOOKS)