Hannah Rankin is fully prepared to welcome Terri Harper to the junior middleweight division.
The WBA/IBO 154-pound titlist from Glasgow didn’t hesitate when offered the chance to face Harper (12-1-1, 6KOs), a former junior lightweight titlist who only recently moved up to lightweight. The 25-year-old from Denaby Main, Yorkshire has now jumped up three more weight classes in a bid to become a two-division titlist as she challenges Rankin this Saturday at Nottingham Arena in Nottingham, England.
“I was very surprised to get the offer to defend my titles against her,” Rankin told BoxingScene.com. “You don’t get many offers like that for a big name like Terri jumping through so many weight divisions. It was a big surprise to the team but the moment we were offered, I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll take the fight.’ There was no stressing on my part.
“I respect her skills and I’ve trained to beat a world champion. But she’s not a true 154 and she’s going to find out.”
Rankin (12-5, 3KOs) attempts the second defense of her unified title reign that began with a ten-round decision win over Maria Lindberg last November 5 in North London. Despite fighting at her natural weight—and admittedly with room to move down to 147 for the right opportunity—Rankin enters Saturday’s DAZN co-feature as a +260 underdog according to Caesars Sportsbook who currently lists Harper as a -330 favorite.
The fight is the second for Harper since suffering a fourth-round knockout loss to Alycia Baumgarder last November 13 in Sheffield, ending her WBC/IBO junior lightweight title reign and her time at the weight. A move was since made to lightweight, where Harper overcame a cut above her left eye to win a ten-round decision over Yamila Belen Abellaneda on March 12 in the very arena hosting Saturday’s title fight.
Speculation came out in late spring that Harper was eyeing a drastic jump in weight for the chance to challenge for a 154-pound title. Rankin defended her titles in a tenth-round stoppage of Alejandra Ayala, a fight that ended with the Mexican challenger entering a medically induced coma and remaining in that state for ten days after recovering from surgery to remove a subdural hematoma.
Rankin weighed her options for her next fight, having also considered an offer to face Natasha Jonas who also moved up in weight and at the time had just won the WBO junior middleweight title. The temptation to pursue the unification bout was trumped by the chance to face a bigger name in Harper, whose frame well supports the 154-pound division but who will be fighting at her walkaround weight against a natural junior middleweight.
“She’s a former world champion. I respect her for that, I’d be stupid not to,” admits Rankin. “I respect her skills and I’ve trained to be beat a world champion. But I can’t see any drastic adjustments from her. To be honest, I don’t think she’s had enough time to adjust to the new weight.”
Rankin-Harper serves as the DAZN co-main event. Topping the bill, IBO lightweight titlist Maxi Hughes defends against former IBF featherweight beltholder Kid Galahad, who moves up in weight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox