In 1993, an HBO documentary film crew follows boxer Dicky “the Pride of Lowell” Eklund and his younger, half-brother, “Irish” Micky Ward, through the streets of working-class Lowell, Massachusetts as Micky paves the asphalt and, later, they are warmly greeted by fans. Celebrated for his 1978 defeat of Sugar Ray Leonard, Dicky believes the documentary will commemorate his comeback, although he is now a coach not a fighter. Training Micky for an upcoming match in Atlantic City, Dicky is distracted by his addiction to crack cocaine. Throwing shadow punches in a drug-induced haze at a crack house, Dicky keeps Micky waiting at the gym while their mother and manager, Alice Ward, proudly shows off scrapbooks of Dicky’s career to the HBO crew. She reprimands Officer Mickey O’Keefe for stepping into the ring to train Micky in Dicky’s absence and explains that Micky worships his brother and learned everything he knew from him. When Dicky finally arrives at the gym after sprinting across town, Micky tells the HBO cameraman that both Mickey and Dicky are in his corner. Later, at a bar, the HBO cameramen seek clarification about the paternity of the family from the men’s seven sisters while Micky amorously observes the bartender, Charlene Fleming. With the encouragement of his father, George, Micky approaches Charlene and repudiates her perception of him as a “stepping stone” who builds on the status of other fighters. He contends that his next fight with Saoul Mamby will prove his skill at the “hand body” technique that distinguishes brawling from the finer art of boxing and asks her out. Before leaving town, Micky visits his daughter, Kasie, at her home in an upscale neighborhood and promises that his success will enable him to get a bigger apartment so she can live with him more often. On the day of departure for Atlantic City, Dicky is again detained at the crack house and Alice, George, Mickey and Micky retrieve him in a limo on the way to the airport. Terrified that Alice will discover him there, Dicky jumps from the second story window and falls into a dumpster below. Upon arrival in Atlantic City, they learn that Mamby has the flu and Micky has instead been matched against an opponent who far exceeds his weight. Although it is not safe for Micky to fight, Alice and Dicky encourage him to go through with it rather than forfeit the pay, and Micky is devastatingly beaten. As Dicky attempts to reconnect with Sugar Ray Leonard in the hotel lobby by touting the HBO documentary about his comeback, Micky returns from the hospital and is offered a deal with Mike Toma to train in Las Vegas without Dicky. Back in Lowell, Micky expresses reluctance about separating from his family and is unsure about continuing to fight, but Alice insists that she will find him a better opportunity. Charlene angrily misinterprets Micky’s evasiveness and choice of art house film Belle Epoque instead of a movie in the Lowell mall as a snub, but when he explains his shame of being seen after losing the fight, she inquires if his family truly has his interests at heart and they kiss. Three weeks later, Alice books a new match. Ordering her daughters to find Micky, who, they disparagingly report, has been preoccupied with the purported party girl and college elitist, Charlene, Alice resolutely collects Dicky from the dumpster behind the crack house. With the entire family gathered in the living room, Dicky and Alice pressure Micky to accept the fight. Charlene breaks the family’s code of silence about Dicky’s crack addiction. When she points out that Dicky is often missing and that the offer to train in Las Vegas provides a much better prospect for Micky’s success, she is accused of disrespect by Alice but defended by Micky. Dicky’s promise to come up with money for Micky to continue training in Lowell leads him to orchestrate several scams with his Cambodian girlfriend, Karen, including propositioning her family for fraudulent investments in a pyramid scheme and using her as a decoy prostitute while he impersonates a police officer to rob clients. Caught in the act, Dicky runs from the scene, starts a fight and resists arrest. Micky’s attempts to protect his brother result in the pummeling of his hand with a police baton. The brothers are taken to jail, where Micky is released on his own recognizance and Dicky is charged with multiple offenses and imprisoned. Charlene, enraged by the incident and the setbacks created by Micky’s family, refuses to see Micky, while Dicky is treated as a hero by his fellow inmates who call his name through the wall as he suffers withdrawals. When the HBO documentary airs, a special screening is set up in prison, but Dicky is soon angered to discover that the film is not about his comeback, but rather a character study of crack addiction. Furthermore, Lowell residents in the film contend that Leonard slipped during Dicky’s illustrious victory and that he has not lived up to his name and made them proud. When the audience of convicts laughs at his son’s misery, Dicky unplugs the television and starts a fight. Meanwhile, family members watching from home are grief-stricken and Charlene goes to Micky’s apartment to comfort him. After spending the night with Charlene, Micky decides to resume his training with Mickey. When his hand heals and he gets back in shape, Micky accepts an offer, arranged by George, for management by local businessman Sal Lanano under the condition that he will no longer work with Dicky and Alice. Alice and her daughters form an angry mob to take their wrath out on Charlene. A fight breaks out between the ladies on Charlene’s porch as Micky confirms his decision to work exclusively with Sal and Mickey. With his career propelled by a victorious series of fights against Hernandez, Manetti and Collins, Micky visits Dicky in jail to tell him that Mickey is now his trainer, but Dicky warns that he is being used as a “stepping stone” by Toma in his next fight on HBO against Alfonso Sanchez. Despite Micky’s accusations that he is jealous, Dicky inquires about his fight plan and coaches him to use a body shot. During the Sanchez fight, Micky takes a beating without retaliation to the dismay of Mickey and Charlene, but then shocks everyone with a knock out body shot and wins. Listening to the results through a phone call to Alice from prison, Dicky and the inmates cheer Micky’s victory. As Micky and his team celebrate, Toma appears, telling him he is no longer a “stepping stone” and offering him a shot for the world title. When Dicky is released, Alice drives him directly to the gym, but Micky reveals that his deal with Lanano obliges him to train without him. After Micky argues his desire to work with everyone, Mickey and Charlene walk out. Once again sparring with his brother, Micky gives Dicky a forceful body shot, knocking him to the ground. As Alice scolds him and jumps into the ring to fuss over Dicky, Micky accuses her of favoring Dicky and not supporting him in his chance at success. Upset, Dicky walks away with the cake presented to him by his sisters and brings it to the crack house. Despite a warm welcome, he leaves his old friends behind. Dicky proceeds to create a hard-fought truce with Charlene and resumes training Micky with the entire team behind them. In London, at the World Welterweight Championship fight, Shea Neary is clearly the crowd favorite despite his insolence. Although Micky fights back, it appears that Neary has gained control. In his corner, Dicky tells Micky that this is his time and makes him repeat the words “head, body.” In the eighth round, Micky is thrust against the ropes and gets pounded, but then turns the fight around and knocks Neary down with a total knock out, winning the title. Alice and Charlene jump into the ring and kiss him as the crowd cheers, and the past tensions between the members of Micky’s corner dissipate. At his brother’s side, Dicky holds up his brother’s arm in victory.