Hannah Rankin: “It is a fantastic fight, Scotland vs England and it will be a great fight for women’s boxing.“
Hannah Rankin would have been excused if she had gone full Conor McGregor and graced our Zoom interview with a world title belt on each shoulder. Rankin looked content with her life, her first world title reign didn’t end the way she wanted. A fighter still looking for revenge and redemption over Sweeden’s Patricia Berghult who took away her IBO super-welterweight title in 2019, and while Berghult is still very much on her wanted list, Rankin has every reason to be satisfied with her life at present:
“I’m happy, really happy at the moment,” Rankin relayed to me, clearly a fighter enjoying her moment.
The loss to Berghult set Rankin onto a path of disappointment, frustration, even a fight in a prison, well kind of, before finally getting another chance to call herself a world champion once again. Last November Rankin introduced herself to the Fightzone family with a points win over Maria Lindberg in London to win the vacant WBA and IBO world super-welterweight titles. The second time around was probably even sweeter for Rankin:
“The first time I won the world title it was at home and in front of my family and friends. But London is my second home, I have been here for 11 years now so it was really special to win the WBA and IBO titles down here so I have now won world titles in both my homes.”
On a night full of passion and raw emotion in 2019, a red-hot Scottish crowd roared Rankin on as she beat Sarah Curran to claim the vacant IBO world title. The IBO version of the world title probably doesn’t carry the weight of importance that some of the belts do, although this observer thinks in the women’s side of the sport, it carries far more meaning. However, Rankin is now in possession of the WBA world title as well as her old IBO title once more. The unified champion defended the worth of the IBO title but is equally proud to now be a WBA world champion.
“On the IBO title, it is people’s own opinion, whatever they choose to say. I think Gennady Golovkin was told it wasn’t a real world title when he had it. I personally think people should stop talking about that. But the WBA is one of the big four belts so it is great to have my hands on that one. The WBA is one of the very first world titles from way back in history so it is cool to actually have that one.”
After another famous night in the career of the former white-collar fighter, in the fighter’s hotel there was a special moment when she walked into the room after the usual post-fight duties were out of the way. Everyone in the room cheered when she made her grand entrance, albeit in her typical unassuming manner:
“I really wasn’t expecting it and it was such a surprise. It was a real special moment and when I walked in I just thought wow, yeah it was really really special.”
The world title win in London was the first fight Rankin had for Fightzone and the fighter couldn’t be happier in her new home:
“Fightzone is a fantastic platform. It really is about the fighters, people coming through and making their debuts on Fightzone and things like that. It gives them a chance to really build themselves because people can watch them on their journey and see how they progress. For me, it’s been great, a fantastic platform it gives people all over the world a chance to tune in and watch me which is fantastic. In my very first fight for them, they delivered my world title for me so I can’t really complain. It’s been going really well and because they are showing fights more or less every weekend they are showcasing different parts of the UK.
“It gives the fighters a chance to learn a bit about the business. People come up and film you and they have to do interviews. So it prepares them for when they are fighting for titles or on their first big show. So I think it is a great introduction for fighters to get used to the media. I always say to people when they are starting out, learn how to speak into a camera, learn how to talk to people and be forthcoming and let people know about your personality. It helps build a rapport with your audience and helps you sell more tickets.”
The super-welterweight division has been turned on its head by an unlikely source. The rude imposter, albeit a very much, welcomed one announced herself in her new division in some style on the undercard of Amir Khan/Kell Brook a few weeks ago in Manchester. Natasha Jonas moved up multiple weight divisions to stop Chris Namus in two rounds. Rankin can see nothing but positives by Jonas gatecrashing her division:
“I’m really excited about it, to be honest. That’s the great thing about women’s boxing, one minute you think it is going in one direction and then suddenly there is a curveball and then it’s all different. I think that happens more in the women’s game there are so many moving parts. It’s just really interesting to see people moving through the weight divisions, so yeah it’s quite exciting. Tasha stepping up has turned a few things on their heads and why not.
“I think when it first happened most people were like, really. Nobody believed it. I remember Claressa messaging me saying the same thing. I was certainly quite surprised. There was an offer for me to fight Tasha, but there was no title on the line it was for me to defend my titles. So I was not really interested in that because there was nothing really in it for me. But now Tasha has got the belt, now I am interested in that fight. Obviously, I want to unify my division which is a goal most of us have. It’s really interesting now and props to Tasha for stepping up to the super-welterweight division.”
The smart money was on Jonas having to go the distance if she was to claim a world title at the third attempt, and Rankin who was ringside working for Sky, agreed:
“I didn’t see it happening so early. Chris Namus only had two weeks’ notice. She hadn’t been sparring, but she was fit and made the weight. I think she was overwhelmed by the experience as well. She said to me I have never done a public workout before so it was quite big for her. The experience of being on a big Sky Sports fight week, doing the press conference and doing all that sort of stuff and then coming out to a packed arena that was 100% pro-Tasha, it was all a big new experience for her and she never got going. That first shot and that was it and she never quite recovered from it. But massive praise for Tasha to get that shot off, it changed the whole fight. Nobody expected that and it was really exciting.”
Rankin vs Jonas is now a potential fight of real intrigue. Only a few months ago it seemed fanciful that the two fighters could possibly be sharing a ring together at some point. Now it looks almost like a dead cert it will happen later this year. An unlikely fight maybe, but now it has the look of a very good one. It won’t be a build-up of tables being overturned or an avalanche of insults being thrown at each other. Both are far too respectful of each other for that:
“I’ve got my first defence first, but let Tasha and Joe enjoy their moment because they have worked so hard for it. I’ll come back to it after I have had my first defence. But obviously, it is a fantastic fight, Scotland vs England and it will be a great fight for women’s boxing. I’m a fan of Tasha I have supported her in the lead up to her fights and she is a great role model for women’s boxing.”
But before any talk of an all British unification fight, Rankin will have to navigate her way past Alejandra Ayala of Mexico on April 23rd. The champion will head to Glasgow with a lot on the line, her hard-earned world titles and a potential blockbuster of a fight with Jonas.
Rankin is far too level-headed to get ahead of herself to look past Ayala. It is one of the great feel-good stories in recent British boxing history. It started out as a battle for fitness and evolved into so much more. Maybe the story and her talents have gone a little under the radar at times and unfairly so, despite having shared a ring with the likes of Claressa Shields and Savannah Marshall. But a win over her Mexican challenger next month could catapult Rankin into her biggest fight to date.