took a legend-in-the-making named Sugar Ray Leonard the 10-round distance in 1978, he
foolishly assumed he
could bask in the adulation forever.
hailed from Lowell, Massachusetts, and the fight took place in nearby Boston.
Although Leonard was a 1976 Olympic gold medalist on the fast track to superstardom, it was the local hero the fans turned out to see.
had been wowing 'em since his
days as an amateur, when many considered him a sure-shot future professional champion.
televised the Leonard fight, and Eklund's spirited and gutsy performance earned him an even greater degree of reverence in Massachusetts, and sheer idolatry in Lowell.
At one point Leonard was pushed to the canvas, and Eklund cockily did a victory jig that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
It was a night New England fight fans would never forget.
was their hero, and he
thought it would never end.
In 1985, Eklund's
19-year-old half-brother, lightweight Micky Ward, burst onto the boxing scene and quickly became a fan favorite and television staple.
Eklund was Ward's trainer and they racked up 14 straight wins.
Without a hint of modesty or an ounce of common sense, Eklund
lit a crack pipe on camera, and the smoke swirled around his
head like an ominous halo.
was emaciated, his
once lean, lithe, subtly muscular body reduced to a pathetic shell.
It looked as if his
entire being had been decimated by years of alcohol and drug abuse.
managed a smirk and twitched his
Symbolically, it was much like the victory jig he
had danced over Leonard.
"I was down to about 120 pounds at the end," he
"Anybody could have pushed me over.
I remember being able to take my hand and wrap it entirely around my upper arm and still have room left over.
People would come to the crack houses and be told I was Dick Eklund
, the guy that fought Sugar Ray Leonard.
Everybody laughed because they couldn't believe it."
Eklund's world, such as it was, collapsed in September 1993, when he
was charged with armed robbery and a handful of other felonies.
was released on bail after three months, then managed to stay clean for another three.
But after winning $350 on a scratch ticket in the state lottery, Eklund
money and ran-to the nearest crack house.
showed up late for a court appearance on St. Patrick's Day, 1994, he
was immediately remanded to jail.
was eventually sentenced to 10 to 15 years in the state prison for the robbery charges, and had to serve eight before being considered for parole.
In some ways jail was the best thing that could have happened to Eklund
at the time.
was able to confront some of his
demons and attempt to make belated sense of all that had gone wrong.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'm a miracle" he
said during an interview at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution
in Plymouth, a minimum security work farm nestled in the Miles Standish Forest.
had already done time in the maximum security Walpole and Gardner state prisons, but viewed his
stay at Plymouth as a gift, part of what he
"I have been a lot of good things in my life," he
said, "a good boxer, a good brother, a good trainer.
I always found a way to mess things up."
Ward acknowledged that Eklund was a good trainer "when he was there.
has been in and out of trouble, in and out of prisons and jails over the years.
But these days he's
nose clean and himself on the straight and narrow.
And if he's
not entirely at peace with the havoc he
getting there day by day and one step at a time.
Sugar Ray Leonard fights Dick Eklund