TORONTO - Dicky Eklund is clearly upset as he prepares for a phone interview.
“Where you from?” he asks suspiciously.
When told The Toronto Sun, he seems to calm down a bit.
Turns out he has a problem with another publication — a magazine that’s about print certain “lies”.
“I just got one of the worst messages I’ve gotten in years,” Dicky explains in his thick Massachusetts brogue.
A reporter preparing a piece about him and his brother Micky, he says, is going to quote him using the F-bomb. The really bad F-bomb.
“I told (the reporter) that Micky lives up with the rich people and I joked that I live in the ghetto,” he says. “But in the (article), I said that Micky lives up with the faggots and I live in the ghetto.
“I never said that,” Dicky insists. “That hurts me. I don’t discriminate.”
He says he needs to get on The Today Show to set the record straight.
“Do you get the Today Show up there?” he asks.
He doesn’t wait for an answer, but continues to convey his worries over the impending article.
He’s clearly distressed and it takes him a few minutes to relax.
Life has been full of ups and downs for the brothers since the release of The Fighter — the Academy Award-nominated movie starring Mark Wahlberg as Micky Ward and Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund. They’ve enjoyed their new-found notoriety, though Dicky’s F-bomb troubles are clearly a point of concern.
Just recently, Dicky and Micky attended a party hosted by an ex-Playboy Bunny and chatted with such Hollywood luminaries as John Travolta, Mel Gibson and Ernest Borgnine. At one point, according to Dicky, they were talking with Marc Anthony while his wife, J.Lo., threw mock punches at Micky.
Yes, Dicky and Micky have gone Hollywood.
The brothers have always been well-known in boxing circles, but The Fighter has turned them into international celebrities, though, they insist, they haven't changed. Their lives have somewhat, but they haven’t.
Former boxer and junkie Dicky is still training fighters in their hardscrabble hometown of Lowell, Ma., while ex light welterweight champion Micky is still a proud Teamster and entrepreneur. He owns a gym back home and the Greater Lowell Dek Hockey Center. If you go in the website, there’s a seven minute video of Bobby Orr highlights.
“It’s been hectic,” Micky says, when asked about their lives since The Fighter hit the big screen. “But it’s been positive. I haven’t changed at all, honestly. Although it’s changed the way people look at me.”
Of the two, Dicky seems to be the more outgoing.
He jumps on the fact that the interviewer is from Canada, and talks about training with Eddie Melo and Nicky Furlano in Toronto back in the day and how he’s good friends with Canadian heavyweight legend George Chuvalo. He also speaks fondly of his time in Halifax, where he fought twice in 1981.
The highlight of the trip, he says, was meeting a “nice girl” at a local library. Though the relationship didn’t last (apparently there was some trouble after a second girl arrived on the scene), he still thinks about the “nice Halifax girl” from time to time.
“Maybe there’s a little Dicky Eklund running around up there,” he says.
Would he be okay with that? Certainly, he says. In fact, he hopes there is a little chip-off-the-old-block somewhere in Nova Scotia — it would add more drama to a story that’s already chalk full of it.
The Fighter, in a nutshell, is the story of two brothers. The older one, Dicky, is a former professional boxer, who manages to overcome drug addiction to guide his kid brother, Micky, to a world title. It’s also about family, laid out in all its raw brilliance.
For boxing fans, however, the movie disappoints in that it hardly touches on Micky’s three fights with the late Arturo Gatti, the Montreal fighter who died in 2009 while on vacation in Brazil. Those wars, staged in 2002 and 2003, are considered one of the best fight trilogies of all time — right up there with Ali-Frazier and Graziano-Zale.
Hell, any Hollywood bigshot worth his salt could make an award winner about the Ward-Gatti fights, with the backdrop of how the two fighters became close friends afterwards and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Gatti’s death. (Gatti’s wife was arrested for his murder and then released after Brazilian authorities later ruled the death a suicide. The Quebec coroner’s office is now investigating).
In fact, Micky said he assumed that his fights against Gatti were going to be a major part of The Fighter when the producers first approached him.
“Maybe we’ll do a sequel,” he says. “Who knows? I’d love to.”
Micky says he’s still shaken by Gatti’s death.
“I got a call from Chuck Zito, the actor, who was friends of both of us, who told me what happened,” said Micky. “I just couldn’t believe it. I was devastated.”
Micky said he last talked to Gatti just before the movie was made and invited him down to visit the set.
“But then they went to Brazil and he ended up not coming back,” Mickey said.
After a while, a movie rep cuts in on the line to say that the brothers have to move on. We say goodbye, but before hanging up, Dicky expresses distress again over the alleged F-bomb. Again, he insists, he would never say anything like that. That’s not him.
He’s a tough Lowell boy, just like his brother. He’s certainly no saint, as The Fighter clearly reveals. But he’s not a bad guy either.
“The worst enemy I had was myself,” he says. “I used drugs once. The rest of the time they used me. But I’m in the right place now.”