Review of the Micky Ward Film "The Fighter"
By Danny Serratelli (Dec 14, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
Talk of a film about the life of “Irish” Micky Ward has been circulating around boxing circles for years. After promising Micky and his half brother Dicky Eklund that the film would get done, Wahlberg went to great lengths to keep his promise. Wahlberg was almost as determined to get this film made as Micky Ward was in his 18 year career in the ring, and the determination of both of them pays off for the fans. Wahlberg explained, “I grew up 30 minutes from Micky’s neighborhood. I knew about this guy. I always wanted to play a fighter, too. And, hey, I’ve fulfilled most of my childhood fantasies through acting. This one was just tougher to fulfill.”

Both Matt Damon and Brad Pitt were involved in the project at certain points, but, ultimately, Wahlberg recruited the talented Christian Bale after seeing him at his daughter’s preschool and remembering his performance in “The Machinist”. Bale quickly agreed to take on the colorful role of Dicky and there are already rumors that he may receive his first academy award nomination for the portrayal, despite the fact that many had initially thought his performance was over the top.

Charlene, Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, Photo by: Danny Serratelli
Danny Serratelli, Micky Ward and Wayne Johnsen
RIP Arturo Gatti 1972-2009
Bale explained, “There were a couple of times I had to physically restrain Dicky from going and landing one right on David (director David O. Russell). Dicky did not initially understand that putting a whole life into two hours requires a little bit of license to take things and mix them up. He initially wanted everything to be portrayed exactly as it was.”

While critics will question the films accuracy it should be noted that it is not a documentary about Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, rather, it is “based on a true story”. The film was shot on location in Lowell, Massachusetts with Dicky assisting the cast and crew in setting up and shooting in the authentic locations in the neighborhood. Ward’s assistant trainer Mickey O’Keefe also plays himself which adds more authenticity. Amy Adams also delivered a solid performance as Micky’s girlfriend, Charlene.

No film would be capable of having the heart of the real Micky Ward, but this film has spirit and will keep viewers emotionally involved even after they leave the theater. “I think other boxing movies haven’t been able to really capture the believability of being a champion,” Wahlberg says. “I wanted to go in there, make it real and take some hits. I also had to show that Micky had more heart than just about anybody else. This film is really about his heart.”

“I knew if I didn’t do him justice, he would kick the living shit out of me.” It is a story of brotherhood, family, conflict, resilience and redemption. It is the type of film that will make viewers relate with Ward and pull for him all the way through. While the film lays it on pretty thick, the fact is that most families are dysfunctional and most viewers will relate to the conflicts that Micky faces outside of the ring. People who are not boxing fans will definitely enjoy this film. Educated boxing people will also love the movie and recognize that inaccuracies regarding Wards record, weight, and belt did nothing to take away the heart of the film, the film still worked.

When it became known that the film would not include Ward’s legendary trilogy with fellow warrior, Arturo “Thunder” Gatti most people looking forward to the film lost much of their interest. While the film only mentions the fights with Gatti when it ends, it is far from disappointing. I had the pleasure of being ringside at all three of those fights and know first hand that it was one of the greatest trilogies in the history of boxing. The film shows the tough journey that Mick had to endure to make it to the trilogy with Gatti, and Micky feels that Arturo would have liked the film. While it doesn't appear to be the type of movie that would produce a sequel, you never know in Hollywood or in boxing.

The boxing scenes are as good as any in a boxing movie to date. Particularly the fight with Alfonso Sanchez which was more bizarre in real life than it was portrayed in the film. The fights that were broadcasted by HBO are shot the way HBO did them and the actual commentary from Ward’s fights by Larry Merchant, Jim Lampley, Roy Jones and George Foreman were used. The only downside there was the inexplicable absence of the member of the HBO team that all knowledgeable boxing people rely on for the truth, HBO judge Harold Lederman.

I have had the pleasure of working with and hanging out with Ward on several occasions; I have only met Dicky briefly. So I can honestly say that Mark Wahlberg does an excellent job portraying the tough yet humble Micky Ward. Both Wahlberg and Bale trained with Micky and Eklund and also studied their fights in preparation for the roles, and it shows. Micky was one of the toughest fighters in boxing for his entire career. To this day, he is one of the coolest and most humble guys in boxing. Bale and Wahlberg said that during shooting they grew closer to the brothers and still stay in touch and hang out with them. Go see the movie- you will leave the theater entertained, inspired and with a greater appreciation for these modern day gladiators.

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