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A night with ‘The Fighter’ outside the ring

Dicky Eklund is ashamed of his past. After his 10-year professional boxing career ended in 1985 – which included going toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard in 1978 – he developed a crack cocaine addiction and eventually wound up in prison, disgracing his namesake: “The Pride of Lowell.”

While the movie “The Fighter” focuses on “Irish” Micky Ward – Eklund’s half-brother – and his struggles and triumphs in and outside of the boxing ring, it’s about more than just boxing.

Ward and Eklund presented a special dialogue at the Robinson Theatre Jan. 19 called “A Conversation with the Fighters,” which focused on the lives of the two brothers upon which the blockbuster film is based. The siblings’ story is an inspirational one. Eklund and Ward managed to overcome the repercussions of each others’ mistakes to reach a stronger family relationship that eventually helped Ward win the World Boxing Union’s light welterweight title against Shea Neary in 2000.

Richie Farrell, a friend to the brothers, led the discussion during the “Conversation” and said the movie chronicles how the Ward/Eklund clan rebuilt bridges within a dysfunctional family. Farrell said he wants viewers to see the film and understand its key themes: brotherhood, loyalty and respect.

“This is a story about redemption,” Farrell said.

Eklund’s crack addiction caused a rift within the Ward family, as Eklund was one of the subjects of the 1995 HBO documentary, “High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell.” When Farrell showed a snippet from the documentary to the audience, Eklund turned away from the screen and refused to watch it.

Ward said he knew what his brother was going through for a long time.

“It was hard to see someone go through that, especially someone in your family, your brother,” he said.

Ward said he tried to help his brother with his addiction, but some problems are truly a challenge.

“He had to make the decision himself to stop,” Ward said. “Unfortunately it took getting in trouble [to motivate him to stop].”

Ward offered advice to the mostly student crowd.

“If you don’t want to do something, just say, ‘No,’” Ward said. “It’s as easy as that. And if they don’t accept it, then they’re not your friends.”
Living in Lowell, Mass., was like living in a melting pot of different cultures all brought together in one town, the brothers said. Farrell said part of the reason why the film was shot in Lowell was because the city is its own character.

When it comes to the accuracy of the film, Ward and Eklund said the majority of the movie was accurate, but some things were skewed to make it a better film. For instance, some of the scenes between Ward’s girlfriend – played by Amy Adams – and his family were exaggerated in the likes of catfights and constant bickering.

Where the film truly shines is in the portrayal of Eklund. Christian Bale won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor in a drama, and it is well-deserved. The speed in which Eklund speaks is mimicked very well by Bale – Eklund said his speech is called “Dick-anese” — and Bale replicates the jittery body movements Eklund makes in the movie.

And while it takes hours of training to reach the stamina of professional boxers, Eklund said Ward and himself get a lot of their fighting mentality from their mother.

Wanna see “The Fighter”? At press time, the film is showing at Regal Avenues 20, AMC Orange Park 24 and Regal Beach Boulevard 14. Remember, the Regals on Beach Boulevard and at the Avenues Mall host $5 Sundays.

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