HANNAH RANKIN is well aware that boxing fight nights can happen in some unusual places. 

She however admits that even in her wildest dreams, she could not have predicted the venue for her upcoming bout. 

On the 12th of March, Rankin will take on Kholosa Ndobayini in Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town, South Africa, the jail in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for a period, and the Scot admits she was more than a little surprised when the opportunity was initially put to her. 

However, having got her head round the unusual surroundings, Rankin is, she says, hugely excited by the prospect of fighting in such an historic venue. 

“I think of the crazy places I’ve boxed and it’s pretty unbelievable – huge auditoriums, tiny nightclubs, I was potentially going to box on a boat and now in a prison,” the 30-year-old says.  

“That’s what’s great about boxing – because it’s part of the entertainment industry, these things can happen. 

“The prison’s got a tradition of boxing and with Nelson Mandela having been there, it’s a real honour to go there to fight.

“I don’t know if the inmates will be watching – it might be the usual Covid restrictions with no crowd but I could get there and find out the whole prison is watching.” 

That Rankin is fighting at all is significant. The pandemic has meant fight opportunities have been severely restricted, hence why the former world champion is travelling to South Africa.  

But with the Luss fighter adamant that sitting in limbo while precious months of her career rolled by was not an option, her manager, Sam Kynoch, went on a mission to make a fight for his boxer.  

Ndobayini may not be quite of the quality of some of Rankin’s past opponents such as Claressa Shields, but she is no slouch. Two South African titles at two different weights suggest she is a quality fighter and Rankin is not going to fall into the trap of being complacent. Particularly as the Scot will have the added challenge of altitude to contend with. 

“I’m expecting her to bring it but I’m ready for that and I’ll put on a show,” Rankin says. 

“I’m really excited about getting in there and doing my thing. 

“I’m well aware that as a sportsperson, you have a finite career. 

“I’m conscious of my age but more than anything, I’ve just hit the peak of my physical condition so the thought of stalling my career for six months or more just wasn’t an option. 

“Currently, America isn’t possible so in the meantime, I’ll get my fights in elsewhere. 

“Altitude can make quite a difference but I’m sponsored by the Altitude Centre in London so I’m used to training at altitude. That gives me the confidence that I’ve done everything I can to get my body in the best physical shape possible.” 

That Rankin is so confident about her fitness was far from a given a couple of months ago, when she was floored by Covid. 

Just before Christmas, flu-like symptoms were followed by a positive test result and Rankin did not have an easy few weeks of it. 

“I had no energy - it was tiring just going from the bedroom to the bathroom,” she says.  

“I was drinking litres of water and then my breathing went on the third or fourth day and that was tough.  

“After I got the all clear, I walked to a coffee shop about ten minutes away and I was sweating buckets and then went home and slept for four hours.  

“I was worried how it would affect my cardio but what I didn’t realise was how it would affect my strength – that was down by a third when I came back to training.” 

However, a measured approach on her return to the gym meant that slowly but surely, Rankin regained her fitness and she is now in as good shape as she has ever been. 

“It took me about three weeks to get my fitness levels back to where they would have been when I started my training camp so it took a while,” she says.  

“I’d read a lot about Covid and professional athletes so we really eased back into my training – in my first session, I was doing basically nothing and I was still sweating buckets. 

“We took it really easy and I’m so glad we did because now, I’m feeling good.” 

Rankin suffered a loss on her last outing - defeat to Savannah Marshall for the WBO middleweight title - but that result has not dented Rankin’s confidence as she goes for her tenth pro win. 

Her bout with Ndobayini will be at welterweight and, amidst a number of lessons learnt from her defeat to Marshall, one of the main ones was that she is not a natural middleweight. 

“Coming off a loss makes no difference to my mindset, I’m always super-focused on the job in hand,” she says.  

“Every time I walk back into the gym after a fight, I’m a better fighter and this time, there’s new things everyone will see in this fight that I’ve developed. 

“I’d always intended to go to welterweight but in the past, there’s not been many opportunities. 

“I’ve got a lot of attributes that’ll really suit welterweight and even cutting weight is going really well.  

“I’m aiming for three fights this year and I’m looking to cement myself into welterweight division and challenge for those world titles.”