In the past eight years of interviewing fighters, promoters, trainers and managers, my phone call with Scotland’s Hannah Rankin (6-3) was the most times I’ve heard the word ‘opportunity’ used.
I think mainly due to the fact that she takes them when offered and encourages other women to do the same and help further female boxing. She’s willing to take any risk to reap whatever potential rewards await.
The most recent of those will see her battle Sarah Curran (4-1-1) for the vacant IBO world female super-welterweight championship at the Lagoon Leisure Centre in Paisley, Scotland.
Here is the story of how she got here:
Twenty-eight year old, Rankin has challenged for world honours on two previous occasions, most recently for three world middleweight titles against Claressa Shields live on DAZN and Sky Sports. This impending bout though, on home turf, is surely the biggest fight of her life so far and a chance to create history.
“It’s so important for me to be fighting at home in Scotland. It’s going to be a really big event. When I win, I’m going to become Scotland’s first-ever female world champion. So to be able to have that fight in my home city is fantastic. It’s kind of a dream come true. I think every boxer wants to fight for a world title at home, so yeah, dream scenario.”
Her opponent will travel to Scotland from the U.S having lost just one of her six professional bouts. Curran will be somewhat of an unknown to British boxing fans, but Rankin has done her homework and speaks confidently of what to expect on June 15th.
“I know she’s done pretty well over in America,” Rankin explained. “She’s an aggressive, come-forward fighter, which I’m looking forward to having actually. It means it’s going to make for a great fight for the fans to watch. We can put on a bit of a show.”
Recently a Twitter post by Rankin delved into the topic of female fighters’ pay. She was quoted saying, ‘we should not always put the business over boxing’. She then divulged to me further detail as to how she’d like women’s boxing to grow.
“I think if you’re offered a fight – there’s an opportunity to grow your publicity and get out there and show people what you can do. You should take those opportunities when they come along. There’s not enough women in boxing at the moment for people to be worrying so much about the money. You need to take the chances and the money’s going to increase as we put on a better show for the public.”
The clearly passionate pugilist continued on.
“If you get a chance to go out there and show everybody what you’re about – it can only be good for the sport. It can only make more people interested in women’s boxing when you go out there and put on a great performance.
“That’s what I did when I went out with Claressa. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to sell myself to the public and raise awareness of women’s boxing and get more people involved. The more that like it – the more people that want to watch it, the more TV want to get involved and therefore the money will go up for us.”
Rankin practised what she preached when venturing above her favoured 154lbs weight division to challenge for 160lbs and 168lbs world titles in 2018, going the distance unsuccessfully against Alicia Napoleon and Claressa Shields.
“I was happy to step up to middleweight and super-middle because of the opportunities offered to me. I do think more women should do that because we have the chances to go a little bit between the weights (to find more fights). More women do that than the guys, for example. That means your options are bigger and you’ve got more people to fight. For me, super-welterweight is the weight I want to be fighting at. It is the division I want to become world champion in.”
In particular, the fight against Shields was a chance to gain some rounds with arguably the greatest female fighter, amateur and professional, of all-time. Something that might never arise again and something she grabbed with both hands.
“It was a great opportunity for me to go out there and showcase what I’m about. My experience levels in comparison to Shields’ experience, two-time Olympic gold-medallist, two-weight world champion. Nobody gave me a chance apart from me and my team. I went the full distance. I’m pleased with how I performed. I’m only going to get better as a fighter.”
The chance to become Scotland’s first-ever female world boxing champion is the biggest prize on offer for Rankin, but not the only one. Her hope to inspire more women and young girls to join the sport is a reward she would treasure almost as much as a pristine IBO world championship belt.
“That’s one of my main goals. I want more women, especially Scottish girls, to come through. To get involved in boxing because it’s a fantastic sport. We’re slowly starting to rise and there’s more women getting involved.”
She continued: “I do have lots of young girls come to my fights and they look up to me. That’s a fantastic position to be in. It’s amazing to feel like a real, positive role model. I think it can only be good to get more women involved in the sport. It’s a real honour to be an inspiration to other girls. Hopefully, I can get more of them into boxing because we definitely need more girls in the sport.”
Rankin’s route towards professional boxing didn’t consist of hundreds of amateur bouts. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
“When I was a kid, I did Taekwondo. That was my first introduction into combat sports”, she explained. A break for her music career halted things a little before meeting her current coach, Noel Callan.
“He introduced me to boxing. I kind of fell in love with it a little bit and I became quite obsessed with progressing myself in the sport and I started doing some white-collar boxing. I did some fights raising money for charity. And I then had the option to go to the next stage and I was either going to go down the amateur route and join an amateur club or there was the professional route. I didn’t want to leave my team and my coach, so I decided to go professional.”
The aforementioned music career is Hannah’s main love when she’s not punching punch bags in the gym. Music has always been in her blood.
“I’ve grown up with music as something that’s been a big part of my life since I was very little. My mum plays the piano, French horn and cello. My grandad was a music teacher, so me and my two sisters were encouraged to play musical instruments from quite a young age and it’s always been a path I wanted to follow. I ended up going to the Royal Conservatoire in Scotland studying for an undergraduate on the bassoon.
“I moved to London to do my Master’s (degree) at the Royal Academy of Music. On a day-to-day week for me. I’m teaching lots of kids in schools. I teach flutes and the bassoon. I also have private students and I freelance.
“For example, last night I was playing in an orchestra down on the south coast of England for an orchestral concert. We do concerts for the elderly in care homes and in schools for kids as well. It’s a fantastic other job (laughs)! I’m really lucky to do two jobs that I absolutely love. It kind of bursts the stereotype of either doing music or doing sport. I love both – so I do both.”
Finally, it’s best left to the pugilist herself to sell her IBO super-welterweight world championship scrap with Sarah Curran to boxing fans and the wider sporting public.
“Expect fireworks. I’m looking forward to putting on a real show for my home crowd. I can’t wait to get in there. I’m really looking forward to starting camp. It’s going to be an amazing nine weeks. I’m not going to be beaten at home in front of a home crowd.”