Gianna Sarusal, Guam's female boxer ready to compete
HAGATNA, Guam (AP) - Gianna Sarusal is going to be frustrated if she gets to Papua New Guinea and still can't get a fight.
It's not a likely scenario -- 19 women boxers are listed on the preliminary list of Pacific Games athletes -- but given Sarusal's history, it's not impossible.
"I would train like I'm going to fight," Sarusal, 22, said of her past half decade. "Other gyms would say they have fighters, then nothing. . I go to weigh in and the other girls don't show."
So while she's trained in boxing since she was just 14, Sarusal, 1-1-0, hasn't had a sanctioned boxing match in more than six years.
That streak, finally, will come to an end, probably, and Sarusal, set to represent Guam for the first time and appear in the inaugural women's Pacific Games boxing competition, can hardly wait.
"Everything overall is exciting because I'm actually going to fight. I'm going to compete," she said. "And then to think about all the other things, it's a great experience. I'm just honored. I'm excited. I'm happy. I'm nervous. There's so many feelings. I already feel blessed."
Growing up, boxing was never really in the picture for Sarusal. She didn't watch the sport and certainly didn't dream of becoming a fighter.
She didn't come to the sport to combat bullies or keep a girl away from her boyfriend. She just wanted to play basketball.
Sarusal went to the Guam sports complex gym with her coach, Errol Alegre, hoping to get up a few shots on the court. The gym was unavailable, so they instead wandered around the back and heard some commotion inside.
They peeked in -- at what turned out to be Lights Out Gym -- and saw male boxers sweating it out.
Ready for a workout and not wanting to go home without sweating, Sarusal accepted an invitation into the ring.
"I just felt it was really awkward, like, why am I punching the air?" she said. "I just kept coming and now I'm very passionate about it. It kind of just happened."
Sarusal had her first fight scheduled a few months later -- it was canceled because her opponent didn't show -- and first got in the ring in 2008, winning by TKO.
In 2009 she had her biggest fight to date, a three-round battle with Nesthy Petecio of the Philippines. Petecio, now ranked No. 2 in the world in the Amateur International Boxing Association and then ranked No. 5, won by decision.
Sarusal followed with an exhibition boxing match against a pro mixed martial arts fighter in 2010 and, in late 2013, a kickboxing bout that she won by knockout.
Since then, she has trained and waited.
Now, with the Pacific Games only weeks away, she will finally get her chance.
"I've always got it in my head, just train like you're going to fight," she said. "I want the gold. It's my goal. I'm not going to guarantee it, but I'll tell you I'm working hard to get it.
"I have to apply everything that I've learned. I have to remain focused."
Fights at the Pacific Games for women are scheduled for four two-minute rounds, and Sarusal, fighting at 132 pounds, will have to make weight prior to the competition and before each fight.
"My family and friends, they're all supportive of me," Sarusal said. "I'm going to go out there and take it."