RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — Fans and athletes packed the Tate Recreation Center in Riviera Beach for the first-ever Boxing for a Cause event Saturday, taking a swing at mental illness and suicide prevention.
"Boxing is a way out for those kids that are fighting it up here, you know, because that's the hardest fight," said Anthony Ochoa, a boxer for Mickey Demos Boxing. "That is the hardest fight."
Ochoa said he trains every day to win in and out of the ring.
"Boxing is an outlet," said Ochoa. "It's an antidepressant. It's a way out the streets also," said Ochoa.
Thirty-six South Florida boxers of all ages, race and gender strapped up, putting their physical and mental strength to the test.
"When things get tough and people are throwing at you and you feel like you're getting overwhelmed, you have to just, like, buckle down and really believe and yourself and keep going," said Katelyn Hess, a boxer with Fight Fit Wellington.
The event was organized by the foundation Sincere 2000, whose founders lost their son to mental health.
"We just need people to understand that it's OK not to be OK," said Cheryl Melvin, co-founder of Sincere 2000. "It's OK that when you feel some type of way to make sure that you reach out, that you speak and that you let somebody know."
In collaboration with Palm Beach Boxing, all money raised from Boxing for a Cause will benefit Sincere 2000 to continue providing mental health resources and education.
"If we can raise awareness for mental illness and reach somebody, then we're doing our job," said Unique Melvin, co-founder of Sincere 2000.
The event also had the support of organizations like Wondherful, a nonprofit that advocates for mental health.
"One more suicide is one too many, and we all gotta come together to help (stop) that from happening," said Heather Palacios, founder of Wondherful.
Palacios said she's battled suicidal thoughts for 40 years. The organization distributed life boxes, which contained note pads, snacks and other tools for people that may be in a bad mental state.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was one of the top nine causes of death for people ages 10 through 64 in 2020.
Organizers hope to make Boxing for a Cause an annual event.