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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 Out! Gym.

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 be declared. 

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.

[News article about Gianna trying to find an opponent]
[News article about exhibition bout]
 

 
     
     

 

     
     
     

 

     
     
   
         
 
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