Hannah Rankin: “My goal this year is to fight three times and work towards another world title shot.”
By Will Lott
Born in the small town of Luss, near Loch Lomond in Scotland, Hannah Rankin made history in 2019 when she defeated Sarah French to win the IBO super-welterweight title and become the first ever Scottish female world champion.
Rankin however didn’t have a long established amateur career. She turned professional off the back of a few white collar bouts.
“I didn’t actually have an amateur career. I started in boxing for fitness. I did some white collar boxing to raise some money for charity. I’d done the training and I decided I wanted to compete. My coach suggested I go to an amateur club but I didn’t want to do that so I turned professional. I was already sparring with professionals like Mikaela Lauren. I fell in love with the sport and that was it.”
Hannah turned pro in 2017 and fought four times in her debut year suffering her first defeat in Norway against Joanna Ekedahl to drop to a 2-1 record.
“I took an opportunity on the undercard of Mikaela Lauren vs Cecelia Braekhus. I definitely won that fight. The general consensus was it was a robbery away from home but it is what it is. You take an opportunity but you can’t always get what you want. They even made a mistake and announced me as the winner. That result fuelled the fire for my next fight and I actually put on a great performance headlining at York Hall so I was really proud of myself. I came back and won an international title before working towards the WBC Silver title.”
A first world title challenge came in just Rankin’s 7th fight as she faced Alicia Napoleon for the WBA super-middleweight title.
“I was actually one of Cecelia Braekhus’ sparring partners when the chance came. It felt like a winnable fight so we took it and we went to America. Alicia is a small super-middle so we weren’t actually near the limit when we were fighting for it. It was a great fight but unfortunately Fox Sport’s cameras were off so it was never shown live on air. It’s been dubbed the best fight you never saw. It fuelled me into wanting to be on more American shows.”
A fight against the self-proclaimed greatest woman of all time (GWOAT) Claressa Shields for the unified middleweight titles immediately followed.
“Nobody wanted to fight Claressa. Everyone was turning down the fight and because I was the sparring partner for Christina I just said I’ll take the fight. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to test yourself against great fighters. We fought in Kansas and was shown on a DAZN and Matchroom card. It gave me an insight into the showbiz side with all the build-up, filming in the gym, interviews, and having a story built around you.
“Being from a small town in Scotland, to box on a massive stage in America was a dream come true and helped me build my followers and my profile. I came into boxing to compete and take any opportunities that come up to test myself.”
Just two fights later Hannah made history becoming the first Scottish Female World Champion after she defeated Sarah Curran for the IBO super-welterweight title.
“To make history for your country is something that can never be taken away. For me to be the first means that I’ll forever be in the history books and my friend told me that one day I’ll be the answer to a pub quiz question. I was also the first UK female to headline a televised card. It was on the BBC who hadn’t shown boxing for a fair while by that point.”
A win against Erin Toughill, making her promotional debut with Salita Promotions followed before defeat to Patricia Berghult in Malta.
“It was a controversial decision. I feel I wasn’t in the right mind-set. I had some personal issues going on. I got dropped in the first round but spent the rest of the fight winning it all back. I won the second half so it was demoralising and put me in a dark place mentally because I truly believe I should have won but due to personal issues.
“I didn’t give the performance I wanted to. That was the first loss that really hit me hard because in this fight, it was a shadow of my actual ability and skillset so I feel like I let myself down. Mentally I wasn’t in the right place.”
A stoppage win over Eva Bajic, a former welterweight world champion in February last year got Rankin back to winning ways before lockdown struck.
“I panicked when it first happened because I thought I can’t fulfil my normal routine and training. Coming off a good win I had goals to be out again and fighting in America with loads of things in the pipeline. I was still focussed though and training. Lockdown felt like an opportunity to level up in my abilities and skillset.”
Rankin was then afforded the chance to challenge Savannah Marshall for the vacant WBO middleweight title on the undercard of Oleksandr Usyk vs Derek Chisora behind closed doors.
“I knew that fight was going to come up because there was nobody else in the UK who she could fight. I thought if that fight comes up I can win it so I took it and as a boxer we want to make a living out of boxing even if it’s not the right time.
“I didn’t mind it being behind closed doors which I think comes from my musical background because I have performed in packed out concert halls and tiny rooms in front of my mum. The shows were very well run and it’s just you can’t see outside the lip area anyway so it is kind of like the crowd is there.
“I felt I was winning the first half of the fight. The first three or so rounds I felt I performed really well but at the end of the third round I perforated my eardrum which affected my balance. That affected my performance but take nothing away from Savannah because she performed really well and I look forward to her facing other top names in the division. It made me realise my natural weight isn’t middleweight. It fuelled my decision to fight at welterweight next.”
Rankin is now set to fight in Pollsmoor Prison in South Africa as she looks to return to winning ways.
“It’s in Cape Town and Nelson Mandela spent time there. It’s a different environment but I’m excited about it. I’ve fought in tiny nightclubs before, then York Hall and big stadiums so it’s quite cool to say you fought inside a prison. My goal this year is to fight three times and work towards another world title shot. Huge props to my manager Sam Kynoch for getting me this opportunity.”
Outside of boxing, Hannah is a known musician, playing the Bassoon and performing in concert halls as well as teaching children.
“I started on the flute when I was younger and went on to Grade eight and then an old lady donated a Bassoon to my secondary school. I thought it looked cool and everyone else played the flute so I wanted the change. At the moment I haven’t been able to perform publicly for over a year now as a result of Covid. Boxing is a finite career but music is something that I will have for the rest of my life.”
Covid has meant Hannah has had to move her lessons with her students online using zoom.
“I’m always inspired by them because they’re doing all of their learning on a computer. I think it’s amazing they still have the energy and excitement to still want to get out their instrument and learn and practice. They’re all still improving. I love working with kids and I am an ambassador for Active Communities Network which does sport with children and young people. They’re the most honest people because they will tell you whether or not they enjoy something. I’m a big kid myself so I just love working with them.”
To master an instrument requires great dedication which is also true of boxing.
“When I want to learn something, I will sit down and do what is necessary. I know how to dedicate myself and manage my time. It has definitely helped with my boxing because it means when I need to focus and work I can do it.”