CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- As Chattanooga sees an increase in gang related deaths, a big push to target high-risk youth is now a major focus.
Westside Boxing Club owner Joe Smith knows the difficulties mayor elect Andy Berke faces when it comes to the crime rate in the city, so he's taking a jab at the problem himself.
"Life is like a fight. Every day there's a shooting, they find somebody dead somewhere," said Westside boxer Ryan Martin.
Fellow boxer Roger Hilley added, "It's scary to say it but you have to face reality, people die everyday out here."
Westside Boxers know Chattanooga's gang and violence issues are very real. It was part of their everyday life,
"The environment that I'm in, if I didn't have boxing I'd be dead or in jail," said Hilley.
They fought their way out of it with mentoring from coaches Andy and Joe Smith.
Now as mayor elect Andy Berke takes office with the hefty goal of cracking down on the city's violence, Joe Smith says his door is always open because city officials can't do it alone.
"We can't wait for the mayor or the police department to fix this. The only way to fix this is by everybody in the community getting involved."
He says too often gangs guide kids down the wrong path, with a false sense of family.
"Where's that really going to lead you in life, like my friend Roger said, you're either gonna end up dead or in jail," said Westside boxer Slade Corvin
They say if you want to see what a real family is about, come to the Chattanooga Golden Gloves Tournament Friday and Saturday at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Hilley said, "Not only come to the fights, come to the gym, we'll have open arms. We'll treat you like family, we're a Godly, loving place."
Everybody at the gym has a story, the Westside Boxing Club is challenging them to share theirs; trade in the street life for a set of gloves and some discipline, because the boxing part is only a fraction of what they do.
"Boxing is one of the many tools that we use to help the person turn his behavior around before we read about him in the newspaper being shot or shooting somebody," said Smith.
The Golden Gloves tournament kicks off Friday at 8 p.m. and picks back up Saturday at 6 p.m. in the convention center. Tickets are $5 for students and $10 for adults.
Members from the club will be in full force, they say don't hesitate to ask them how to get involved..
Thursday, August 21 2014 8:02 AM EDT2014-08-21 12:02:08 GMT
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