19-year-old Gianna "GiaBaby" Sarusal has
been boxing since she was 15 years old. Originally introduced to the
sport as a way to increase her endurance and overall body strength
in order to benefit her first love, basketball, Gianna was skeptical
when she first put on the gloves at the Dededo Boxing Club - Lights
She was the only female in a gym full of men, young and
old. Never being one to back down from a challenge, Gia stuck to it
and kept coming back on a regular basis.
Gianna's father, Don Sarusal told
WBAN, "Being a father of five
daughters, no sons, I was glad to see Gia's competitive, athletic
nature. Playing high school varsity basketball as the starting
center on her school's team her entire high school career, Gia's
first entry into the ring was in February 2008, where she did a one three-minute round on the focus mitts with her head Coach, Joe Saloma,
after her opponent withdrew from the fight."
"Gia continued to train
until the next Guam Amateur Boxing Federation event in April of 2008.
In her amateur boxing debut, Gia was facing an opponent who was a
veteran of the ring; someone the local newspapers had used words
like "fierce" and "ferocious" to describe. Despite giving up a few
pounds, Gia had the height and reach advantage in the fight and
proceeded to put three standing eight counts on her opponent en route to a
third round referee stoppage. Although the GABF continued to promote
amateur fight cards every two months, and Gia continued to train
regularly and weigh in for every event, no female opponents ever
came to fight her," added Don.
Good news was given to Gianna and her
team during Gia's junior
year in high school, when at 16 years old she was given the
opportunity to fight a member of the Philippines Junior National Team.
After being pushed back from an original date of September 2008, the
Monster Energy Drink Guam vs Philippines Goodwill Boxing Tournament
was set to take place in January 2009.
Along the way, Gia's high school basketball
team, the George Washington Lady Geckos, won the island's girls'
basketball championship. From September 2008 until the tournament in
January 2009, Gia's daily schedule consisted of waking up and doing
roadwork at 5-6 am; going to school all day; basketball practice
from 5-7 pm; boxing training at the gym from 7:30-9:30 pm; go home
and do her chores around the house; homework; go to sleep... wake
up, rinse repeat... her dedication paid off as she headlined in the
main event against her Philippines' opponent, who turned out to be Nesthy Petecio,
who is currently ranked #7 in the world by the AIBA, and it was
Gia's second time to fight---ever!
Don told WBAN, "The difference in skill
level was evident from the outset as Gia was visibly thrown off by
her opponent's quickness and experience. In the second round, Gia
threw caution to the wind and used her raw skills to make the fight
competitive, even stunning her opponent in a couple of exchanges.
The third round saw both fighters standing and trading on many occasions but ultimately, Gia lost the
third rounds decision. Afterwards,
as she wiped away tears, I told her she was already a better fighter
for having fought at that level of competition."
Gia's next scheduled
fight was set in December 2010 against a professional MMA fighter from
neighboring island Saipan. In the local news, the
Marianas Variety they wrote: "A main event exhibition match
between two female fighters had to be cancelled early into the fight
for unclear reasons. Guam's Gianna Sarusal, an aspiring amateur
boxer, was to face Saipan's Tara Namuleg, a professional fighter.
Namuleg’s inability to continue was a big disappointment for
Sarusal, who's been waiting for an opponent for some time now. Of
note, Sarusal had landed several shots in the 20-30 seconds they
fought, landing combinations as she pressed forward without fear."
With still no opponents in sight on Guam,
her team pursued a rematch with the pro MMA fighter in her own backyard of
Saipan. Gianna started the fight slowly, but by the third round, Gia
showcased her superior skill set as she continually backed her
opponent against the cage (bout took place inside an MMA octagon/cage) and
pinned her there with combinations.
In order to keep Gia's amateur
status, both fights against the MMA pro were billed as "exhibitions"
with no official ringside scoring/judging and no official winner to
Don told WBAN, "Our dream is to have the opportunity for Gianna to fight for a
chance to represent the island of Guam at the highest level of
amateur boxing, with the Olympics being the ultimate prize. Gia is
also currently training in kickboxing and has plans for learning the
ground / submission game as her continued evolution will eventually
lead her into the MMA arena."
"We hope to attract amateur fighters to come and compete here on
Guam, or hope to make contacts in the continental USA who could
give us a break and a much needed opportunity to prove that this 19
year old half Filipino/half Chamorro (Guam natives) girl can box
with the best of them," added Don.