Inspired by his time training and competing as an amateur boxer, Contenders or So Much Loneliness and Despair is a novella written by Isaac Lekach. The book tells the story of two boxers whose lives converge in Los Angeles shortly after the New Year. Cuban expat, Rudy “El Gallo Negro” Vega is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and former lightweight champion of the world and Harry Sanchez is a nascent young boxer whose potential is being squandered by his insecurities. Harry’s ascent is juxtaposed with the exploration of Rudy’s history, which details his escape to Miami from Cuba and the circumstances that brought him to Los Angeles as his professional career came to an end. While it is centered in the world of boxing, this is not the story of an underdog who overcomes adversity to become a celebrated champion. (That story has been told and if you haven’t seen it, Rocky is a perfect movie.) Instead, here is a realistic and straightforward, no-nonsense tale of life and ambition that is relatable even to those who have never thought about stepping in the ring. Glove up.
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