The Boxer

Kathleen Karr

Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)

Hard-hitting historical fiction

Ever since his father ran off two years before, fifteen-year-old Johnny Woods has struggled to help support his ma and five siblings, sacrificing his own schooling in the process. Still, there's been hardly enough money each month to make the rent, and Johnny's dream of a house in Brooklyn, away from the tenement slums, is out of reach.

Then Johnny discovers boxing. He is a natural-born fighter, with street smarts, determination, and an explosive uppercut. Although boxing is illegal in 1885 New York, Johnny powers his way through every obstacle, believing he has found the means to raise himself and his family out of poverty. But as he moves closer to his biggest fight yet, Johnny must reconcile his need to help his loved ones with a sharpening desire to achieve something outside the ring, starting with his education. In bringing to life Johnny's struggle and ultimate success, Kathleen Karr offers readers a compelling portrait of an appealing young champion.


Read an Excerpt

From The Boxer

Brought it on my own head, I had. My ma's always been after me not to fight. But what's a little fellow like me meant to do? Seems like there's always been someone after me for one thing or the other, always been someone bigger. Tonight had just seemed like a reasonable solution to a lot of things. Tonight in the room behind Brodie's Saloon. Just my luck Brodie was behind on his payoffs. Just my luck New York City's finest picked tonight for a raid. I twisted up a little tighter, trying not to let too much of me touch the filthy mattress. The bruises from Brodie's


Praise for The Boxer

"An enticing mix of sports, action, family drama and period detail in this saga of an amateur boxer growing up in 19th-century Manhattan . . . The book's one-two-punch pacing and warmhearted resolutions will keep the pages turning." --Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Kathleen Karr

  • Kathleen Kaar is the author of several books, including The Great Turkey Walk, which was named a Best Book of the Year by both School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. She lives with her family in Washington, D.C.


Available Formats and Book Details

The Boxer

Kathleen Karr

Golden Kite Award Winner, American Library Association Notable Children's Books, NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, NYPL Books for the Teen Age, American Library Association Popular Paperbacks for Young Re
  • Trade Paperback