Rhiannon Dixon’s first world-title fight week is underway, and as well as sweating out the last couple of pounds and drilling tactics, the 28-year-old former pharmacist will spend her spare time looking over detailed hand written – and highlighted – notes prepared by her training team. 

“Coming from university, that’s probably the way I learn best – I’m a bit of a geek,” she told Boxing Scene. “Sometimes, I’ll be sparring and they’ll shout something from the corner. I might not fully understand why they’ve shouted it but I’ll do it and then it comes off. I’ll be thinking, ‘That was good wasn’t it?’”

Dixon, 9-0 (1 KO), will fight Argentina’s Karen Elizabeth Carabajal, 22-1 (3 KOs), for the vacant WBO lightweight title on Saturday night.

Female fighters do move quickly but, generally, the ones who grasp the opportunities they are handed are those who enter the profession having enjoyed long, successful amateur careers and with far more technical ability than their overmatched opponents. 

Dixon is proving the exception. She is a former podium dancer who was inspired to fight after watching Ronda Rousey’s success in the UFC and decided to turn professional after just a handful of white collar fights. Despite spending the first few years of her career fitting her training around her full time job at a local hospital, she has already won the Commonwealth and European titles and - if she beats Carabajal - she will join Irish legend, Katie Taylor, as a reigning world lightweight champion. 

“I don’t think it’s spoken about enough,” she said. “I just think that this is what I have to do but I feel like I’m a fast learner and you see that in my fights. Every time, I’m bringing something new or correcting things that I’ve done wrong.

“They’ve obviously had so much amateur experience whereas I had seven white-collar fights. The standard is nowhere near the standard that they were fighting at.”

Dixon may not have spent years travelling the world competing in international tournaments and accumulating the skills and instincts that her rivals have but her pre-boxing life instilled in her the type of qualities that can only be gained through experience.

Technically Dixon is improving rapidly at Anthony Crolla’s gym in Oldham but maybe the most important thing she has gained is perspective. Realising what is and isn’t important, and being able to concentrate on the task at hand, is a very underrated ability.

Dixon isn’t the type to dwell on the past – given her rapid success she hasn’t had to – but she has allowed her mind to wander, and to wonder exactly what she could have achieved if she had found her way into a boxing gym as a youngster.

“I don’t even know – sometimes I think about it but I like the way I’ve come though,” she said. “I did my dance and I’ve done pharmacy and I’ve got something to fall back on after boxing that I enjoy. Going to university and things like that makes me quite adaptable. Things don’t get to me.

“I worked on a hospital ward during COVID. Somebody giving my grief on Twitter or trying to box me in – that’s nothing after having a consultant have a go at me. That’s a matter of life and death and this isn’t. I think it’s made me quite resilient and I’m strong-headed. I wouldn’t change what I’ve been through for the world. Maybe I’d like to have started boxing earlier but that can’t be helped.”

Saturday night isn’t a coronation – Dixon has a fight on her hands. In October 2022 the experienced Carabajal boxed Katie Taylor for the undisputed lightweight title and although she lost a unanimous decision, she will travel to Manchester with much less respect for Dixon than she held for the Irish icon. Carabajal will see this as a winnable fight.

Dixon has yet to face a South American opponent and is expecting a tough night’s work. She believes her composure under pressure and willingness to learn and adapt will all come into play once the bell rings. 

“I’m expecting her to be really, really tough and she works at a high work-rate,” she said. “I just think her style will bring out the best of me and I’m looking forward to it. 

“I look at different fights. She’s fought a southpaw girl a few times and I’m looking at different things and noticing different patterns. I like it when girls come with ambition. When they’re a bit negative it makes me look s***.”