Sunday, June 03, 2007

Peter Wood: Boxer, Teacher, Author

Reprinted from May 31, 2007 article from The White Plains Times

Peter Wood, at Borders Books. Photo credit: Paula Markowitz Wittlin
Peter Wood: Boxer, Teacher, Author

By: Jean Bello
Published: May 31, 2007

White Plains High School English teacher Peter Wood describes his boxing career as a “poignant time of life.” A 1971 New York City Middleweight Golden Gloves Finalist who was also selected to represent America in the 1976 Maccabian Games in Tel Aviv, Israel, Wood competed from 12 through 20 years old, logged 34 wins, one loss and 20 knockouts—all chronicled in his personal coming of age tale, “Confessions of a Fighter: Battling Through the Golden Gloves.”

In a telephone interview Wood offered an observation: “Show me a boxer and I’ll show you one unhappy childhood,” adding, “the size of the talent equals the size of the pain.” He says the anger and pain an individual feels becomes fuel in the ring. Wood’s pain comes from the emotional turmoil he experienced after his parents divorced when he was eight years old and his mother remarried when he was nine, whereby he acquired a stepfather whom he did not like and four stepsiblings. He admits everybody was “suffering in silence,” but sublimating their negativity in art. Wood’s art was boxing, “my sick way of remaining healthy.” Calling boxing “the closest thing to assault and battery that society allows,” and saying he was never raised to be a fighter, Wood says he has to take a “positive look at a pretty lousy sport”; boxing provided him with an emotional outlet when he needed it most.

Peter Wood, answers questions from an audience including (l. to r.) Carolyn Tokson, Marcia Kowan and Linda Rodney.
Photo credit: Paula Markowitz Wittlin

After moving out of the house, Wood says the need to “lash out” was gone, and he recognized that “at some point, I knew I had to start hitting the books instead of people.”

Besides teaching in White Plains for about 22 years, Wood has served as the high school Junior Varsity football coach and baseball coach for five years, and has been coaching boxing at the White Plains Youth Bureau for seven years. He says his childhood experience has helped him in his role as a teacher because he tries to be “sensitive to every kid.” Recognizing that some adolescents have a wonderful passage, Wood understands the students who express their anger through art or music, and he sees the quiet little girl in the classroom as perhaps having “World War II raging in her mind.”

Wood's wife Sue, an artist, painted the cover of his latest book.
Photo credit: Paula Markowitz Wittlin

Wood and his wife of 12 years, Sue, and their daughter Zoe live in Mt. Kisco. His father, Guy Wood, “a soft, gentle, self-effacing type of fellow,” was a songwriter who wrote “My One and Only Love,” which was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1956, “Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,” and “Till Then.” He passed away Feb. 23, 2001 at 89 years of age. His mother is an artist and Wood says, “We’re doing great. There’s been a lot of healing through the books and boxing.”

Wood’s latest book, “A Clenched Fist: The Making of a Golden Glove Champion,” tells the story of a couple of White Plains boys Wood worked with in the gym, one of whom goes to the Golden Gloves finals at Madison Square Garden. Book sales have been brisk and book signings well attended. “Confessions of a Fighter” is in its second printing. Asked whether he would give up teaching to pursue writing full time, Wood says, “No, I draw energy from teaching!”


Anonymous said...

Looks like a great guy-and teacher.And given the extent to which public schools have declined,hopefully he'll become superintendent..but first a little
hair splitting:I disagree that boxing is the "closest thing to assault and battery that society allows";I might give the honor to football-after all a quarterback(or someone else)has the possibility of getting blindsided and run over by several 300 pound guys who might be on steroids-and in regards to boxing and morality,almost the first thing both Moses and Jesus do is to hit someone.I think the recipients in both cases deserved it.

I sure don't think boxing "is a sick way of remaining healthy".And there really isn't a correlation between an unhappy childhood and boxing talent;I just finished reading Jack Cavanaugh's excellent biography 'Tunney' and Gene Tunney wasn't an unhappy kid.I think this connection between boxing and unhappiness/anger has become more pronounced in the "rap music"culture that has affected the behavior of too many boxers.

Anonymous said...

I was very surprised to find out that Wood was a boxer, considering he is my English teacher this year in high school. I didn't even know that he had written these two books but I definitely don't look at him the same now that I have found this out.

Anonymous said...

what up boii
ya english classss 2012

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the book yet but I will. Thanks for everything coach. I still hear that electronic bell in my head. Most important your words " I see you trying" are an inspiration.

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Anonymous said...

OGlad you found peace and happiness,but what about the people you hurt in your first book...what about the pain you caused them after all the things they did to help you?

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