The ‘blue corner’ team James Goodger, left, Steph ‘Honeybadger’ Hunt, Marie-Claire ‘Hammer Hands’ Andrews, and Nick ‘Hit and Hope’ Hohepa. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The Trust House Recreation Centre will be full of boxing fans on September 1, raising awareness of the mental health battle many New Zealanders face each day.

The Muay Thai boxing event, Hands of Hope Fight Night, is hosted by Fortitude gym, and is a fundraiser for The Key to Life Charitable Trust.

The trust aims to change the way New Zealanders feel, think, talk, act and behave in relation to suicide and mental health.

While some may think the Key to Life Charitable Trust is a strange choice of charity for a boxing night, Carterton fighter Marie-Claire Andrews says it couldn’t be more perfect.

She’s one of 20 fighters who will find themselves in the ring for the first “and maybe the last” time, having completed 10 weeks of intense ‘zero to hero’ training with The Fortitude Gym.

“I always wondered about the irony of raising awareness for mental health by hitting someone,” she said.

“But the process we’ve gone through has made it all make sense.”

The training has focused heavily on ensuring the fighters are physically prepared for the 3 x 2-minute bouts – the gym along with Daniel Miller and the Young Citizens Boxing Club are providing regular coaching, fitness, and sparring sessions – but the parallel journey of mental preparation has been the revelation, according to many in the team.

When the coach asks for “heart” in the last 20 seconds of a round, that’s when the mental and physical connection has to happen, when a fighter’s mental toughness, determination and sheer willpower aim to fill any physical gaps in ability.

“It’s that awareness of how they’re feeling, how they want to behave, how to channel positive energy, how to rely on their own skills and be confident that makes boxing the perfect vehicle for highlighting that we need to focus on mental health to perform at our best.

“Not just in the ring.”

As coach and event promoter, Zane Hopman says: “It’s more than just training people and putting out strong athletes – we want to make good, positive change in what is a nationwide epidemic.”

Ticket prices and other information about the event and the training options at the gym can be found on The Fortitude Gym Facebook page.

Tickets can be purchased at www.theonlinepaymentcompany.com/hoh/event/hands-of-hope.

The first 50 Midweek readers that sign up with the code HOH2018 will get a discount.