Hannah Rankin on Marshall: “Of course she’s stopping people, I’d expect my gran to stop people with two weeks’ notice!”
Exclusive interview by Ian Aldous: It’s being touted as a matchup of standout amateur vs. hardened pro and former world champion, and it seems to be splitting opinion. This Saturday night, Hannah Rankin (9-4) will give former amateur world champion, Savannah Marshall (8-0) her first bonafide test in the paid ranks when they contest the vacant WBO middleweight world championship.
Rankin held the IBO 154lbs world title last year and is fully expectant of becoming a two-weight champion. She insists this opportunity may be slightly premature for the two-time Olympian due to the differences between the amateur and pro games.
“I think this will be a whole new kettle of fish for her, to be honest,” the thirty year-old said. “Being a great amateur makes you a great amateur, it doesn’t make you a great pro. I’m very much more experienced at the championship distance and all of my opponents have had a fantastic C.V. of opponents, whereas her opponents haven’t really been up to scratch. You talk about someone being a standout amateur and she’s basically been fed people (as a pro) on about two weeks’ notice. No-one’s had a proper camp to train for her. Of course she’s stopping people, I’d expect my gran to stop people with two weeks’ notice (laughs)! It’s not a very fair comparison and people can’t really get a good judge of who she is, as a fighter, when she’s not really fought anybody of note.”
The crunch domestic encounter had been on the cards for a while. It was originally spoken about earlier this year and has just taken a little longer to come to fruition.
“I was offered the fight in February, just before my last fight, and I said I’d confirm it after my fight because I was well up for fighting Savannah,” the Scot explained. “I’ve always thought that’d be a great fight. I stopped my opponent in three rounds, who was a former world champion, and they said Savannah’s going up to light-heavyweight now. So, the fight never happened. Then it came around again in the lockdown with a potential for it to be on Fight Camp, but that never really worked out. So, I’ve been kind of preparing for this fight since February because I knew, as soon as we went into lockdown, that I’m the only other person in the UK available to fight Savannah. I knew deep down and Noel (Callan, Rankin’s trainer) said the same thing: ‘Just wait for it to come round’ and it did.”
In preparation for the impending England vs. Scotland battle, Rankin and Callan decided to bring in some male sparring partners who Rankin believes are proving to be invaluable assets.
“I’ve done some rounds with Chris Kongo and I’ve been working with a welterweight called Alex Bellingham who’s with MTK, and I’ve also been working with Tommy Johnson who’s actually going to be joining my camp. He’s just about to turn over and he’s been sparring with the likes of Anthony Fowler and Chris Eubank Jr. I’ve had some fantastic sparring and it’s been exciting working with the guys.”
Managed by Sam Kynoch and Mark Taffet, Rankin isn’t afraid to work hard for her rewards. Patiently waiting for a confirmed fight date since her last win in February didn’t give her an excuse to spend weeks or months away from the sweet science – she decided to work even harder.
“I stay fit and ready because there’s so many exciting opportunities out there, especially at the moment where things are so uncertain,” she told me. “I’ve been like that through my whole career. I’m a bit hyperactive anyway (laughs). It’s hard to kick me out of the gym!”
“I fought in February, had a bit of a break, and then Covid hit, obviously. I was hoping to be in America in May and that was kyboshed. I was a bit worried and I’m a very active fighter. I like to fight 3-4 times a year. There wasn’t any date looming on the horizon. I used lockdown to work on things. I was really lucky to have space to work in with Noel. We just cracked on and worked on lots of little things. It was a bit of a blessing to work on all that stuff you don’t normally have time to.”
The longstanding debate concerning three-minute rounds in women’s boxing rages on with no solution in place. I put it to Rankin that this particular fight feels like a perfect time to see rules changed and three-minute rounds becoming the norm.
“Absolutely,” she bellowed. “I was hoping that someone would say it and I was like: ‘Please, please, please make it three-minute rounds. I’m definitely a three-minute round fighter and it would be 100% in my advantage. Savannah’s not a three-minute round fighter. In the amateurs, they were doing twos when she was there, I think, and it’s just changed to threes again. I love the idea of three-minute rounds and I really do feel we’ve got to that stage in women’s boxing where championship fights for world titles should be increasing the rounds to twelve, if not we should be doing 10x threes because then that would really help break up the level of depth of fighters. There are people fighting for world titles who potentially aren’t quite ready yet. If we had it down to 12x twos or 10x threes then you’d start to really see the depth increase in the women’s game. I think something has to change.”
Saturday’s co-main event is somewhat of an anomaly for British fight fans. Despite the plethora of major female fights being broadcast on TV in the UK nowadays, those contests have mainly taken place at no higher than 140lbs. On Saturday, that changes.
“It’s the first big fight at a higher weight-class for the fans. They’ve never seen the girls fighting at our weight before here in the UK. All of the fights are normally at the smaller weights and I think people will be surprised at the amount of firepower that we both have. Peter Fury said in an interview that: ‘This is not going to be for the faint-hearted’. There’ll be a lot of blood and a lot of snot in this one, I think (laughs)!”
It’s all set to be an intriguing domestic tussle with trainer Noel Callan adding:
“You need to have a gut check on your way to a world title. Hannah’s had gut checks against Claressa (Shields); in Malta (against Patricia Berghult). Savannah’s never had a gut check and had everything her own way. So, what happens when she gets chinned? What happens when she gets hurt?”
We’ll find out this Saturday night, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the U.S.
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