Former boxing promoter Barry Hearn thinks Hannah Rankin’s world title defence this weekend can be “life-changing” for the Scot and is another major step forward in the growth of women’s boxing.
Rankin is putting her super-welterweight titles on the line when she faces Alejandra Alaya at Glasgow’s Hydro on May 13. It’s the first time a female fighter has headlined a show of its size in Scotland and another first for Rankin, who has been a trailblazer for the sport.
Hearn, who had huge success promoting snooker, darts and boxing, and handled fighters such as Frank Bruno, Naseem Hamed, Steve Collins and Chris Eubank in his long career, says the sport is progressing and Rankin is now in a position both to reap the rewards and set standards for those who follow her.
“The world of women’s boxing is changing,” Hearn told STV. “I mean, a couple of Saturdays ago, we saw Katie Taylor against Amanda Serrano both boxing for a seven-figure purse, headlining the biggest boxing arena in the world, Madison Square Gardens.
“Did anyone see that coming? Well, no. So, again, look at my own life, look at other people’s. Be in the right place at the right time.
“Miss Rankin, the stage is yours. No one’s going to make boxing easy, it’s a hard, hard sport. But at least we are in a position where they can get they can get some reward, they can get some excitement, and they can change their life.
“That’s wonderful. And future generations will thank her because the game is changing.
“It’s not just a man’s sport any more. Women are headlining shows, which three years ago you would have thought impossible.”
Hearn believes the positive changes have an effect across all sport, where women see an example that makes it clear there are paths available and a route to success.
“I think it goes across all women’s sport,” he said. “It creates this atmosphere. Why not me? You know, now, in the past, the reason ‘why not me’ is girls have not.
“So for women’s boxing, yes, they will look and say, ‘that’s great’. And it’s a tough sport.
“But I think more general than that is the opportunity available to women. You know, one of the great things about sport is it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s how good you are.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or thin, Christian, Muslim, black, white, all those things are irrelevant. And in our society, we spend so much time thinking and talking about those. But sport is clean, is about ability. It’s a meritocracy. And we should embrace it and give the opportunity to everybody. And then the rest of us, we sit there and applaud greatness don’t we?”
Rankin is aiming to defeat Alejandra Alaya and hold on to her WBA and IBO belts this weekend, with a title unification fight against Natasha Jonas being talked about as a possibility if she wins on Friday.
Hearn stressed that with the spotlight of a headline fight comes the pressure.
“It’s huge,” he said “But it is a meritocracy. She has to win. That’s the pressure she’s under.”
But in addition to the financial reward, the acclaim and the attention, there is an added bonus to setting a new mark for the sport in Scotland.
“Scottish girls are no different to anybody else,” Hearn said. “They will be inspired by people like Hannah Rankin.”