IT would be inaccurate to say the dust has settled since two-time world champion Hannah Rankin (11-5, 2KOs) defeated Sweden’s Maria Lindberg; the dust hasn’t ever been allowed to gather. Rankin, from the remote village of Luss on the west bank of Loch Lomond, Scotland, had already been crowned a world champion when thrusting the IBO title in the air back in 2019 – this one felt different, though.
This time, there could be no doubting her status, after taking home a belt on each arm, one of them the WBA super-welterweight world title, a recognised ‘big four’ trinket. Speaking to Boxing Social after another busy day of visits, pictures, and ice cream, Rankin reflected on pencilling the next chapter of a remarkable story: “You know me, I’m not exactly a big party animal, but… Yeah, after the fight, I didn’t sleep that night, I just couldn’t. I had about an hour and then after that I woke up and I was just lying there like, ‘My God, I did it.’ Looking at my belt, just like crazy person.”
“I feel a little bit overwhelmed by the whole thing really, because when I started to box, which really was when I turned pro like six years ago, before that it was just for fitness and training, and then I did some white-collar fights just for fun. And then we decided to go pro. Six years later, all this crazy hard work that me and Noel [Callan, Hannah’s only trainer] have been putting in, and putting all our savings, getting to this point, the crazy sparring trips, getting all of that experience. Taking all the fights that came up, and then finally to get here this time, when I’m fighting for the WBA and the IBO, yeah, it’s just a bit overwhelming.”
“I finally achieved a goal that I set out to do,” added Rankin, perched with her belts resting above her shoulders and with a unique pencil sketch of herself pinned to the otherwise-plain wall. “When I won the IBO, a lot of people said I overachieved. And I agreed at that point. At that point, when I won that I was like, ‘Yeah, it is a bit of an overachievement.’ But this one was fully down to all of the hard work and effort, and everything I’ve put in. And this is me actually coming into my own and achieving everything that I could ever have imagined. So yeah, very, very proud. We got all the anti-doping done and then got back to the hotel; there was a little after-party, and everybody cheered when I entered. And honestly, it was just a really, really surreal moment.”
The truth is that almost everything about Rankin’s career does seem surreal. Having written alongside her and Callan for many years, covering their bizarre career trajectory that has seen the fearless fighter go from debuting in a hotel in Essex on a lowkey, small hall card, to fighting two-time Olympic gold medallist and multiple time (and weight) world champion, Claressa Shields (L UD) in Kansas. Bouts with Savannah Marshall (L TKO7) and Alicia Napoleon (L UD) were also high-profile, challenging great champions for titles, and ultimately falling short.
What has always been apparent though, has been the Rankin camp’s response to defeat. It is constructive and strangely motivational, taking a step forward for every double-step back, believing they’ll get there eventually. When faced with professional losses, critics questioned Callan, and it’s something Rankin fired back at: “I always say to fighters, ‘Get the best team around you,’ but you need someone like Noel who believes in you to get you to where you really want to get to. We’re an unbreakable pair. And it’s very hard when you are a coach, because at the end of the day, the buck stops with you, whatever happens. So, winning, yes, you get commended for your work, but losing, people automatically start going straight to the coach.”
Speaking of loyalty, the reigning WBA and IBO world champion continued: “It must be the coach’s fault that you didn’t do this, this, and this. I must admit, after the Savannah fight, we had some negative responses, comments, and things. And people suggesting that maybe I needed a change of scene and all this sort of stuff. And that made me so annoyed; it made me so angry. Because I knew what I was capable of, and he knew what I was capable of. But people are very quick to judge, people are quick to say, ‘Oh, you need a new coach. You need someone that’s more well-known and better at this, and better at that.’ And it’s just like, ‘No, because this person, he knows me inside-out, back to front. Noel has not only put his time and effort into me, but he’s also spent some of his personal savings to get me to where I am now. He’s believed so much in me that he’s done that. And it’s why every time I get in the ring, I want to do him proud because we worked so hard to be where we are, to get to where we’ve got to.”
Rankin, during one of our longest conversations, seems different this time. Her passion and this fiery defence of Callan in particular – which is deserved and commendable – is just a small portion of the confident soundbites she’s provided. In the past, Rankin hasn’t seemed sure that she belongs at the sport’s top level; she had heart, believed in herself, and worked incredibly hard. But this self-assurance is different – and it’s refreshing. A proper champion, a two-time champion, recognised and praised almost universally from boxing fans, she is now commanding the stage.
Her headline bout, streamed on OTT platform Fightzone to a paying audience, meant a lot of things to a lot of people. Rankin’s father was present, as was her sister Alice, with her other sister Emma watching on from New Zealand. Her mother sadly passed away when the fighter was extremely young, though, and it’s something that she believes pushed her over the line, during tougher times: “It was really emotional. And I think a lot of people would have seen the photo when I burst into tears when the announcement spread out. And for me that’s because, every time I fight, I want to do my mum proud. I want her to be looking down at me and thinking, ‘That’s my daughter.’ I did that.”
This new title reign should open the door to some huge fights, with Hannah Rankin backed by Dennis Hobson and Fightzone for the foreseeable future, and the Luss-native wants the belts she’s currently missing, to bulk up her cabinet. It seems that a fight with Canada’s Marie Eva Dicaire would be the most attractive, should Dicaire emerge victorious on December 17th, where she squares off against the unbeaten Cynthia Lozano. Rankin and Callan want big fights; they want to extend an invitation to worthy challengers and continue proving their remaining doubters wrong. Rankin wants to keep her feet on the ground, and to remain one of boxing’s beloved, genuine characters.
“I’d like to be remembered as that girl that followed her dreams and surprised everybody, including herself, with what she could achieve, just because she had a good bunch of people around her that pushed her to be her best. I also want to be remembered for being someone that is always approachable. It doesn’t matter what I achieve in the sport, I want everybody else to be able to go, ‘Oh, that’s Hannah. I had a good chat with her the other day about this, this and this,’ or whatever. I want to be remembered for that; you can have a chat to me and I’m a normal person just like you. And it doesn’t matter, whatever I achieve, whether I become ruler of the world, you can still have a chat to me.”
A world champion again; a boxer at the pinnacle of the sport where many thought she’d struggle to reappear after defeats. Nobody can take that away; Rankin knows that, and she’s smiling widely throughout our chat at the thought of it – as I’m sure her mother is, proud, and thinking, ‘That’s my daughter.’