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Alice Ward, The Fighter / Nick Ehrhardt

Alice Ward, The Fighter

David O. Russell’s 2010 biopic The Fighter won a slew of awards – Oscars, Golden Globes, SAGs, Broadcast Film Critics. It was nominated in many categories, but the standout winners were Christian Bale, playing boxer and trainer Dicky Eklund, and Melissa Leo as his mother, Alice Ward.

The real-life Alice Ward – mother to nine including Dicky, his boxer brother “Irish” Micky Ward, and seven daughters – died at age 79 on April 27, 2011.

Ward was portrayed in the film as tough-as-nails, boozy and brash, and determined to control her sons’ lives and careers. Melissa Leo – who met Ward during filming – asserted that she could be as gentle and loving in real life as she was ruthless and domineering in The Fighter. The toughness was a learned trait, developed out of a willingness to do whatever it took to advance her sons in the boxing world.

Alice Ward suffered a heart attack in January and had been hospitalized since then. According to reports from the family and the hospital, Ward stopped breathing for more than thirty minutes on that winter day, and as her family rushed to the hospital, doctors worked frantically to save her. And indeed, Alice Ward shocked hospital personnel by coming back from the brink – a nurse on the scene said she’d never seen anything like it.

Micky Ward was the fighter of the movie’s title, but the description applies just as well to his mother. Whether it was for her sons’ careers or for her own life, Alice Ward truly fought.