Hannah Rankin lands first female world boxing title for Scotland

Hannah Rankin with the Saltire and the precious belt she won in Paisley on Saturday. Picture: SNS.
Hannah Rankin with the Saltire and the precious belt she won in Paisley on Saturday. Picture: SNS.
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Hannah Rankin needs to pee. It is gone midnight on Saturday night and, deep inside a leisure centre in Paisley, a remarkably patient lady from the IBO is accompanying Scotland’s first female world champion back and forth as she tries to produce the sample needed for the mandatory post-fight drugs test. And they say elite level boxing is all glamour.

Rankin eventually emerged from doping control and lets out a loud ironic cheer. “Finally!” she said, looking as exhilarated by the completion of that task as she did an hour earlier at the conclusion of ten fraught but ultimately fruitful rounds with the American Sarah 
Curran, pictured inset.

This IBO super-welterweight fight was a peculiar contest, the four-inch height differential not proving as much of an advantage to Rankin as might have been expected as she tried to punch down on an opponent who ducked and weaved with impressive dexterity before counter-striking on the way back up. In the end, the judges called it unanimously in the Scot’s favour by 96 points to 94.

“It was a close fight but a world title fight should be close,” she said. “I’m pleased with the outcome. I felt I had won it by a couple of rounds.”

Rankin was a whirl of emotions: naturally exhausted from her endeavours on the night at the end of a draining training programme that took her to Poland and New York, overjoyed at realising at the third attempt the ambition she set out at the start of her boxing career, and emotional, too, at the memory of those who weren’t there to share it with her. Rankin’s mum Clare passed away six years ago but not before offering encouragement to her multi-talented daughter to be the best version of herself, whether in music – her other passion – or in boxing. The gold belt draped across her shoulder, her mum evidently remained at the forefront of her mind in the moment of her finest achievement.

“I made a promise to my mum that I was going to win a world title and I’ve done it so I’m beyond proud,” she adds, turning to look at the belt. “I know my mum is always there with me and that’s really important.

“She’s one of the people that pushed me to achieve lots of great things. I miss her a lot but I know she’s always there. And I did it. I got her the belt and I’m so pleased. I’m world champion and it was amazing to make a little bit of history for me and my country.”

Becoming a world champion requires unstinting dedication and Rankin has made strict sacrifices to reach this point, both in her diet and in her personal life. When she hugged her partner Mike in the ring after the judges’ scorecards were read out, it was the first time she had seen him for a month.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing my family and friends again,” she said. “I haven’t seen my fiancé for four weeks so there were a few tears in the ring afterwards when I saw him for the first time. I’m just glad to be having a break now as it’s been a lot of hard work.

“I’ve had a really strict diet throughout the training camp so it will be nice just to let my hair down and have something nice to eat. Definitely no more chicken! There’s a ban on chicken now for at least a month.”

There were barely a handful of people still hovering around as the venue emptied but the clamour for Rankin will surely grow on the back of this triumph. Having already given a solid account of herself in world title fights in the United States last year, there will be opportunities to return. Radio and television appearances and the other perks of new-found celebrity will follow, too. None of that was at the forefront of her mind, however, as the night grew darker and a driver waited to spirit her away.

“Me and my trainer Noel [Callan] are always making plans,” she smiles. “But I just want to enjoy this moment for now. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”