She may be a stranger to the boxing ring, but Rebekah O'Keefe knows how to fight.
The victim of a violent, gang-related home invasion in Flaxmere in 2008, the incident triggered a Hikoi attended by thousands protesting against local crime.
But while the community rallied, Rebekah retreated, resorting to drugs and alcohol and was thrown into a deep depression.
“I went downhill, went into a dark place, didn't want go nowhere didn’t want to see anyone, I still didn't want to face no one.” Rebekah told 1 NEWS.
Her plunge into darkness was unknown to her family.
“You can see a black eye you can see a broken nose but you can’t see a broken heart” her father and Hastings District Councillor Henare O’Keefe said.
But it was boxing and the community that picked her up.
Rebekah trained at the local Flaxmere Boxing Academy and began to get her life back on track.
“I just see the person that I am in boxing and I just shine.”
Over a few years the 28-year-old has lost over 25kgs, earned personal training qualifications and become a local inspiration.
One of the people to refer her to the boxing academy was Les Hokianga from Hikoi for Life.
“There is a saying that we used to say its ‘open my heart my dear lord so I may see you’ and I think she has opened the heart of all our lives,” he said.
Tomorrow night, she'll turn her fight into one for others in a charity boxing fundraiser ’Battle for Life’ for suicide prevention - an issue important to Rebekah.
“I've been in that dark place of suicide before and it’s not nice and I’m going to go out there in that ring and I’m going to show people to just talk, speak up and fight.”
Rebekah and her team had a last-minute visit from boxer David "Brown Buttabean" Letele, adding extra motivation.
Not that they need it with Rebekah, who believes others should learn from her journey.
"Don't let no one stop you like you may have been hurt but fight back go back out, and if you just crumble and stay in that place, they've won."
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