Saying goodbye to her friends and classmates at Highland High School, Sharahya Moreu says, was difficult.
It was tough, as well, giving up her cross country, track and basketball careers at HHS.
But the farewell was necessary, the 18-year-old amateur boxer believes, if she’s to say hello to the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Moreu left on Saturday for Colorado Springs, where she was to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for 10 days before leaving for Guwahati, India — site of the 2017 AIBA World Youth Women’s Boxing Championship.
To come home from Guwahati with a medal — gold, silver or bronze — would greatly enhance her profile with USA Boxing for a run at the Olympics.
Moreu is one of two New Mexicans who will represent the United States in the competition. Las Cruces’ Amy Salinas, 17, will compete in the light flyweight (101-pound) division. Moreu is entered in the middleweight (165-pound) class.
Moreu has known for almost a year that she had qualified for the competition in Guwahati, a city of some 1 million people in northeast India. She knew that, between the stint in Colorado Springs and the tournament itself, she might be away from home for up to 3½ weeks.
So, with the approval of her father and trainer, Yoruba Moreu, she transferred to Freedom High School — an alternative school designed to help students for whom traditional schooling can’t easily be accommodated.
“It’s much better for me now with (Freedom High’s) points system,” she said. “Now I’m ahead, and I’m, like, much relieved.”
The 7,800-mile, 36-hour trip from Colorado Springs to Guwahati, and what lies ahead upon arrival, is a tantalizing adventure.
“I know nothing about (Guwahati),” she said. “All I know is it’s a boxing tournament, and that’s it. I don’t really know what to expect from there.
“If I could, I would love to (see the sights), because India has so much culture, and their ways and their traditions would be so interesting to find out.”
Though Yoruba Moreu won’t be making the trip, it’s probably more daunting for the dad than the daughter.
Guwahati is located in a section of India connected to the rest of the nation only by a sliver of land called the Siliguri Corridor — also known as “The Chicken’s Neck.” The Indian state of Assam, in which Guwahati is located, is surrounded by Nepal to the northwest, Bhutan and China to the North, Bangladesh to the south and Myanmar (Burma) to the east.
“This makes you a little bit scared,” Yoruba Moreu said. “… Anything can happen overseas.”
Anything can happen in the tournament, as well. Moreu is one of 15 boxers entered in the middleweight division.
Yoruba Moreu hopes Sharahya can follow the path of American Claressa Shields, who won the World Youth middleweight title four years ago and then won an Olympic gold medal at Rio de Janeiro last year. Shields also won Olympic gold in London in 2012 at age 17.
His daughter’s natural fighting weight, the elder Moreu said, is at the 152-pound light middleweight limit. But he feels there’s more opportunity at 165.
“She’s very fast, and that’s one of her advantages (at 165), her speed and athleticism,” he said. “… Just for the fact that Claressa Shields was a two-time (Olympic) gold medalist, we want to pick up that torch.”
The top competition, he believes, based on his research, probably will come from Russia’s Anastasia Shamanova and Kazakhstan’s Saltanat Yestayeva.
Sharahya, he said, “is kind of the underdog. … That’s what she loves to be.”
Pairings have not yet been announced.
At some point, Sharahya intends to turn pro. But she also intends to earn a college degree.
Dad sees it that way, too. Freedom High or no Freedom High, he plans to hold her out of the USA Boxing Elite and Youth Championships, scheduled for December in Salt Lake City.
“I don’t want her to miss more school,” he said.
Nor does Sharahya want to miss everything a strong showing in Guwahati could do for her boxing future.
Speaking as an underdog, she said, “I want to medal, mostly a gold medal, so I can hush everybody up and say I did it.
“Nobody can take it away from me, because I did it myself.”