The Fighter matriarch Alice Ward dies

Alice Ward, the feisty matriarch and boxing manager depicted by Oscar-winner Melissa Leo in The Fighter, has died.

Alice Ward, the feisty matriarch and boxing manager depicted by Oscar-winner Melissa Leo in The Fighter, has died.

Ward, 79, died on Wednesday morning at a Boston hospital, according to her son Dicky Ecklund.

"We lost the leader of our family," Ecklund told the Lowell Sun, a newspaper in their hometown of Lowell, Mass.

Melissa Leo won multiple supporting actress honours, including an Oscar, for her portrayal of Alice Ward in The Fighter. ((JoJo Whilden/Alliance Films) )

"She was a great woman — a strong woman. She taught us all what it means to be strong because she never gave up on any of us."

Ward had been ill for some time when she suffered a heart attack in January. She had been hospitalized since then and was taken off life support on Tuesday, according to family friend John Descoteaux.

The acclaimed 2010 drama The Fighter chronicles the story of Ward's boxer sons, Micky Ward and Ecklund.

Veteran actress Leo portrayed Ward as a loving but domineering, working-class mother of nine with a penchant for salty language and enough brass to manage her sons' boxing careers for a time.

"Having walked in Alice's shoes, she's actually a very gentle and loving lady," Leo said in an interview with National Public Radio in 2010.

"But she saw an opportunity for her boys, and rose above whatever she felt she might be inside of herself and made careers for the two of them."

Leo and TheFighter co-star Christian Bale (who portrayed Ecklund) dominated the film awards season, nabbing supporting actress and actor honours multiple times for their performances in the David O. Russell film. Both actors acknowledged Ward in their acceptance speeches, including at the Oscars.

Funeral plans have not been announced.

With files from The Associated Press