You have to start by wanting to be a contender, the man coming up, the man who knows there's a good chance he'll never get to the top, the man who's willing to sweat and bleed to get up as high as his legs and his brain and his heart will take him.
In chapter 3, Mr. Donatelli responds to Alfred's statement that he wants to be a champion. Mr. Donatelli takes some of the glamour out of Alfred's desire by explaining that there is more to becoming a champion than just working hard. Donatelli does not try to hide the fact that it is a long shot for Alfred or anyone else to get there. Mr. Donatelli believes that a champion is someone who works hard to get there, not simply someone who wins.