The Lagoon Leisure Centre in Paisley is never likely to be mistaken for Madison Square Garden in New York City or Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. The smaller of the two swimming pools becomes a form of pensioner soup as bodies bob up and down to a water aerobic beat, while next door in the gym hall harassed mums take out their frustrations in a body combat class. The nearest it gets to drama is when they turn the wave machine on in the main pool.
It is not the sort of venue that springs to mind for a boxing world title fight but the modest nature of the surroundings will matter not one bit to Hannah Rankin if she goes on to fulfil her sporting ambition this evening. Just two years on from her first professional fight, the 28 year-old will become Scotland’s first-ever female world boxing champion if she can get the better of the American Sarah Curran and lift the IBO super-welterweight belt.
For Rankin, originally from Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond, the chance to fight for the title at home is all that matters. Her two previous world title contests came last year in the United States where she lost on points to Alicia Napoleon in New York and then to undisputed middleweight champion Claressa Shields in Kansas City.
Even in defeat, however, there have been lessons learned that she believes will stand her in good stead as she looks to make it third time lucky.
“There are so many things I learned from last year,” she said. “For one, I’m far more prepared for a full-on 10 rounds having had two world title fights. I’ve also learned more about how you feel in your corner when you have the dips in a fight and those times when you get a second wind. So those were great experiences to have on my record. That was the perfect set-up for this one.
“I’ve been really impatient waiting for the fight to come around. I’ve been down in the gym chatting to people, watched some sparring and just tried to chill out. It’s all about getting myself in the right state of mind for the fight. And now I’m ready.”
Her opponent is trying to do what Rankin couldn’t by travelling across the Atlantic to take the belt from the hometown favourite. The diminutive Curran is giving up four inches to her rangier opponent but Rankin knows it would be dangerous to underestimate a fighter who hasn’t lost since her debut.
“Sarah is an aggressive, come-forward fighter and an American champion. So I’m definitely not underestimating her. She’s in the position I was in last year – going to another country to try to win a world title. And I worked my butt off for those fights so I’m certain she’ll have done the same thing.
“But I’ve already envisioned what it will be like to lift the belt. I couldn’t understand any fighter who steps into the ring not feeling 100 per cent confident of their chances. I’ve left no stone unturned. I’m in the best possible shape and it’s now down to me to execute my plan.”
Rankin, a classical musician in her day job, will be accompanied on her walk ringside by Aberdeen grime star, Ransom FA. “I wanted to work with a fellow musician and give someone an opportunity on a great platform like this,” she said. “He’s got a good tune lined up and the crowd will hopefully go for it. Everyone including me should be buzzing by that point.”
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