Hannah Rankin does things differently. An orchestral bassoonist who studied at London’s Royal Academy of Music, her dual career as a professional boxer might seem an unlikely one.
Yet, as she prepares to fight for the unified middleweight championship of the world in Kansas tomorrow, the 28-year-old Scot says her musical background has played a key role in her boxing success.
“When I decided to learn to box I applied my musical discipline to training,” said Luss-born Rankin. “I’m used to practising for four or five hours a day and I’ve applied that to my boxing world. I know how to practise. I’m very good at it.”
Known in the sport as “The Classical Warrior”, Rankin is relishing what will be her eighth professional bout this weekend. Her opposite number is two-time Olympic gold medallist, Claressa Shields, who bosts an impressive 6-0 record as a pro.
While Rankin went ten rounds with WBA super middleweight world champion Alicia Napoleon in August, the London-based Scot knows Shields will present her with a whole new challenge.
Nevertheless, with a 5-2 record herself, Rankin believes that her gameplan of “effective pressure” can undo the American.
“She’s never going to have fought anyone like me,” she said. “I think it’s going to be an experience for her. I think, because she comes from that Olympic background, she’s got fast hands and big combinations. She’s well known for throwing lots of shots and technically she’s got good combination punching as well. Those are things I’ve been working on and things I’ve got counters for”.
Against Napoleon, Rankin, a natural super-welter, boxed above her natural weight division and admitted it was “a step too far” but said she has since added more strength-focused elements to her training regime.
“I’m feeling stronger and fitter than I ever have and I’ve built up a little bit. I’m feeling like I’ve filled out as a middleweight for this fight.”
Everything’s stronger. My core’s stronger. Everything’s just bigger. It’s great to see the advancement in my body.
“We’ve had a bit more notice for this one. When I stand on the scales ahead of this contest I’m going to be like a true middleweight.”
Working hard to make sure that this latest, strongest iteration of Rankin can succeed in Kansas is coach Noel Callan.
“Noel really inspires me,” said Rankin, “I work very hard to achieve what I need to do in the ring because I have somebody that has basically taken a massive leap of faith with me. He has changed his whole life, and put everything into changing my life, to get us into this position. For somebody to be that selfless and to have that greater belief in you is very, very inspiring for me.”
Callan, who received his pro licence around the same time as Rankin, has worked exclusively with the Scot up to this point but is beginning to test the waters with other fighters and is, deservedly, starting to earn plaudits.
Rankin’s manager and fellow Scot, Sam Kynoch, said chemistry between the pair is key to their success.
“You can’t mention Hannah without mentioning Noel, her trainer,” he said, “Noel’s just so on it in terms of her training programme and everything else, but also his knowledge of the female aspect of the game is really second to none.”
The combined input of Rankin, Callan and Kynoch has been supplemented by coaching assistance from former British Champion and European welterweight champ, Gary Jacobs . Rankin says she swears by some of the Glaswegian’s old school techniques.
If strength, workrate and Callan’s gameplan come together as planned, tomorrow’s fight will be an interesting one. It will certainly be a high-profile night for women’s boxing and Rankin hopes she will inspire other young women as her careeer progresses.
“It’s amazing that Claressa and I are both co-headlining a Matchroom show in America,” she said. “Slowly things are starting to change and, for me, I want to inspire young girls to think that everything is possible, you know?
“I came from the middle of nowhere in Scotland and had a music career and decided I wanted to get into boxing. I started doing some white collar boxing and here I am about to fight for the unified middleweight championship of the world.”