Dicky Eklund and Christian Bale from David O. Russell's The Fighter
Credit: Lester Cohen/WireImage

By now, the Dicky Eklund story is well known to the millions of moviegoers who've seen his family's drama played out with all its strained loyalties, front-porch melees, and quests for redemption. But what happens after the film version ends is left uncertain. The postscript about Dicky Eklund that comes at the end of The Fighter is strenuously vague: "Dicky maintains his status as a local legend. He trains boxers at his brother's gym." The recent real life of the three-time Golden Gloves winner is, in fact, shockingly vivid. Dicky has been arrested more than 66 times, at least several times in the past decade, where the movie of his life leaves off.

In the past four years alone, he has been arrested for cocaine possession and a string of assaults, including a charge of attempted murder. He was questioned in other crimes as well. In May 2006, Dicky was involved in a homicide that took place outside Captain John's, a bar just down the street from where his life story would be filmed months later. A 29-year-old patron was punched once in the face, hit his head on the pavement, and died. Dicky says the victim was throwing a punch at him when his nephew intervened. In the end, John "Jackie" Morrell, the 25-year-old son of Dicky's sister Donna, confessed to the beating and served 11 months in prison. "The cops want me for that," he says. "Cops said I threw the shot. With my record I could have got 25 to life. I didn't do it. He confessed to it. My nephew, the one that killed the guy, goes, 'Dicky, they still think it's you.'"

Dicky had once been a New England welterweight champion, known regionally as the Pride of Lowell. Dicky was a scrappy Irish tough who danced and fidgeted his way through bouts and never suffered a single knockout. His most notable moment in the ring came in 1978, when he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard in a 10-round fight that he ultimately lost by unanimous decision.

For that bout, Dicky was paid $7,500, a pittance compared with the millions his brother Micky made over the course of his career. Their fortunes outside of the ring have differed sharply as well. "He lives out in the Highlands," Dicky says of his half brother, "where all the fags live." Theirs is not an easy relationship. "We're close now," Micky says. "But, you know, we have to keep each other at arm's length sometimes. That's how big families are now and then."

By the time Dicky's career ended, in 1985, he'd racked up 19 wins and 10 losses and picked up a fierce crack habit. His spiral into drugs and prison devastated the Eklund family – his mother, Alice; his seven sisters; Micky. Dicky was featured in the 1995 HBO documentary High on Crack Street and was later sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison for, among other things, kidnapping and masked armed robbery. (He and a hooker friend had been luring johns they'd then rob at gunpoint.) It's only when he got out of jail, after five years, that his younger brother's fighting career gave him focus. As one of Ward's trainers, Dicky helped his half brother win the WBU World Championship title in 2000, which is where Hollywood rolls the credits on their story. Micky Ward would go on to bigger and more profitable fights, taking on the late Arturo Gatti in three epic battles that netted him $1 million each. (The first and third fights landed both men in the hospital and each was crowned Ring magazine's Fight of the Year.) Micky retired in 2003 with a record of 38 wins – 27 by knockout – and 13 losses. Today, he runs a gym in nearby Chelmsford. Dicky had been training boxers at a Cambodian gym in downtown Lowell – a gym that had been renovated to house his training business – but lately he hasn't been showing up. Now he trains fighters at Micky's.