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Hannah Rankin: "You can expect an absolute firefight"

Yet another stellar woman’s World title fight graces our screens on Saturday night, as Hannah Rankin and Savannah Marshall face off for the WBO World middleweight title. Rankin tells fans to “expect an absolute firefight”, in Saturday’s World title showdown.

In the past few years, woman’s boxing has gone from strength to strength, and this is another example of the progression in the sport. Fights between the likes of Katie Taylor and Delfine Persoon, as well as Terri Harper and Natasha Jonas, have provided some of the fights of the year, and who’s to say this fight won’t give fans the same entertainment as the rest?

Hannah Rankin last fought in February of this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic bared its teeth around the world, and is overjoyed to finally get back in the ring and fight on Saturday night.

“I’m absolutely buzzing. I’m so excited. It’s great to have a fight date in the diary, I’m fighting for a World title and it’s going to be live on Sky. I’m really blessed to be one of those fighters who are lucky enough to have got a fight. So yes, I’m ecstatic.”

In the opposite corner is Savannah Marshall. Although this is her first fight for a World title, she is favourite with the bookmakers to win the contest. However, Rankin does not feel like she is a big underdog going into the fight, and believes she is more than capable of winning.

“I don’t really feel like the underdog going into the fight, to be honest. I’m coming from a place of much greater professional experience, so I feel like this is a great 50/50 fight for the fans and I think it’s going to be a really exciting one for everyone to watch.

“I think I’m going in with the advantage that I’ve fought for a world title before, fought at championship level many more times than her, and have been world champion before. I know what’s expected of me, I know what pressure there is, there are no surprises for me in the lead up to this fight.”

Rankin celebrating after becoming IBO World champion (Photo credit: BBC)

This is the fifth time the Scot will be fighting for a world title, so Rankin is no stranger to the pressures of world championship fights. Having already won world honours back in June last year, when she defeated Sarah French for the IBO super-welterweight title, the 30-year-old is confident she can get the job done again this weekend.

“Obviously this stands me in good stead. Having fought for a few world titles before and fighting for the IBO title at home in Scotland, you know what it’s like to be coming out to a big occasion. Having fought Claressa Shields in America, on a Matchroom USA card, I know how it’s going to run, there are no surprises there.

“Due to COVID, the lead up to the fight is going to be different, all having to keep our distance, getting tested beforehand and going into this bubble scenario, so that’s the only difference. So for me, having done the whole championship preparations before, I know mentally and physically how I feel. I feel good.”

Having campaigned for most of her career at super-welterweight, the professional musician believes she can adapt to carrying the extra weight up at 160lbs. Rankin has known about the fight since before the UK went into lockdown, so has had plenty of time to fully grow into a middleweight.

“I’ve had loads of time to really feel like I belong at middleweight and in the weight category. I’m feeling fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to getting in there. This time I feel like I have filled out and have actually made the weight properly, and have filled out to be a full middleweight.”

The last time the Scottish sensation fought at middleweight was back in 2018 against Claressa Shields. However, having been outpointed by Shields in that fight, Rankin believes she is far more prepared and comfortable at the weight this time around.

“I think that when I fought Claressa (Shields), I wasn’t fully there at the weight, but for this one I feel very strong and ready to go. I really do feel like a middleweight now and fully believe I will beat Savannah.”

(Photo credit: The Sunday Post)

It has become the norm now that fights in the UK are happening behind closed doors, and Saturday night is no different. Eddie Hearn is bringing this show to the East of England Arena in Peterborough, in which Lewis Ritson tops the bill against Miguel Vazquez.

Although it will be a new experience for the former IBO super-welterweight champion, Rankin isn’t bothered by the absence of a crowd.

“I’m quite excited about it actually. It’s a whole new thing to learn about. For me the whole no crowd thing won’t be a problem. In my other career as a musician, I’ve played to packed out concert halls but I’ve also played tiny halls and little rooms where there were just a few people there on a panel. So for me, it really makes no difference at all having an audience or not having them there.

“If it had have been at home in Scotland I would have loved to have an audience. Your home audience is always great, but for this situation that we’re in, fighting in Peterborough behind closed doors, will be a completely different setup, but one I’m quite interested in. It’s a new experience and it’s always great to try new things, so I’m looking forward to it.”

The world title fight between Rankin and Marshall this weekend, takes place over ten, two-minute rounds. The standard distance for woman’s title fights. However, as of late there has been a lot of chat as to whether woman’s championship boxing should consist of three-minute rounds, the same as the men.

The 30-year-old feels that three-minute rounds would play to her advantage, and is an advocate for the longer rounds.

“I would absolutely prefer three minutes. I definitely feel like I’m a 3 minute round fighter. I think it would suit me so much better. The girls that are at the elite level, I think we should be fighting three minute rounds.”

The Scot is a firm believer that there should be a notable difference between elite, championship-level woman’s boxing and the levels on the way up the boxing ladder.

“I think it’s really important that we have a differentiation in the number of rounds or the length of the rounds as you get higher up the levels, up to fighting for world titles. At the moment you fight 10x2 minute rounds for the Commonwealth title, but then you also fight ten rounds at two minutes for a world title. So I feel like you either need to have 12x2 minute rounds for world title level or have 10x3 minute rounds for world title level. There needs to be a notable difference.”

In terms of development as a fighter, Rankin believes that women are being held back from reaching their full potential and showcasing their arsenal of talent.

“At the minute it is curbing us from developing the depths in our sport for women. There are people fighting for world titles who aren’t necessarily ready in my opinion, but because there is no differentiation in the length of the rounds or the number of rounds, you can’t say they’re not prepared for it. They’ve already done it for a Commonwealth title over ten rounds. So yes it’s kind of holding us back, in terms of allowing steps for us to develop in the woman’s game.”

As well as halting the development of female fighters, the WBO World title challenger feels that if there were three-minute rounds, there would be less long-term injuries for female fighters.

“Girls would take a lot less damage in the fight if the rounds were longer. There are lots of fights that go 10 rounds but one of the girls is getting battered from pillar to post, she’s surviving for two minutes, then she’s recovering for a minute, then survives for another two minutes. But if it had have been three-minute rounds, it probably would have been stopped, and they wouldn’t be taking so much punishment. If we had longer rounds, yes, there may be more knockouts, but the girls would be taking less punishment over fewer rounds as they aren’t taking a constant beating for ten rounds.”

Pride of Scotland, Hannah Rankin (Photo credit: Daily Record)

With the fight only days away, Rankin urges fans to tune in and expect another brilliant fight between two talented fighters.

“You can expect an absolute firefight I think. Both Savannah and I are coming fully revved up, it’s going to be an absolute war. I think the fans are going to love it.

“It’s going to be the first time there’s been a world title fight at this weight for women in the UK, we haven’t actually had a fight above super lightweight for a world title in the UK. Obviously, this is a heavier weight, both Savannah and I can bang, so we’re both bringing serious firepower to the fight.”

Rankin is certainly not short of confidence and believes if she follows her game plan on Saturday night, she will get her hand raised and become the new WBO World middleweight champion.

“I think it’s going to be exciting for people to watch and for myself, I’m going to put a stoppage in for this fight, so I’m excited. I’m excited to show you all what I can do.”

Rankin knows that a victory at the weekend could propel her into more big fights in 2021, and fully believes she will become the WBO middleweight champion on Saturday night.


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