ONE fight in the ring, another outside it. Hannah Rankin is equally committed to both. On a personal front, the Luss super-welterweight will make history this evening when she becomes the first female to top the bill at Glasgow’s Hydro Arena when she defends her IBO and WBA belts against the Mexican, Alejandra Ayala.

It is Rankin’s first fight on home soil for two years and, should she defeat the experienced Ayala, it will mark another major milestone in the 31 year-old’s boxing journey, with talk of an all-British unification bout with WBO champion Natasha Jonas to follow later in the year.

It has been a tumultuous time for the classical musician turned pugilist who won, lost, then regained her world strap, adding a second in the process, always willing to take to the road for fights and never ducking dangerous opponents. Defeating Ayala this evening at the top of a card littered with her Kynoch Boxing stablemates may not represent the highlight of her career but, in front of a partisan home crowd including her dad and sister, it may be the most satisfying win yet.

“I’m really excited about this one, my homecoming in Glasgow,” she said. “It’s a chance to defend my world titles and make history for Scotland by headlining at the Hydro.

“The venue is something I think about a lot before a fight. On the night it’s dark and you can’t see beyond the first few rows but I use the energy within the room to get me going. I was working for TV at the Josh Taylor fight in February and the atmosphere was electric so I can’t wait to experience that for myself in the ring.

“Alejandra and I have similar records but I’ve fought a much higher calibre of opponent throughout my career. Mexico and Scotland have one similarity and it’s that we both like to fight! So it’s going to be an exciting one for the fans but I believe I’m too big and too strong for her. And nobody is taking my belts off me in my own country.”

There is the bigger picture stuff, too. Rankin gets that part of her job is to sell the sport and raise the profile of women’s boxing overall and does so willingly and articulately. Having Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano selling out New York’s fabled Madison Square Garden recently demonstrated how far the sport has come and Rankin believes there is scope for British boxing to take similar leaps and bounds.

The profile has never been higher but the fight goes on for the women when it comes to equal treatment and pay as the men.

“People talk about leaving a legacy in sport and I definitely want to be someone who’s made a change for the next generation coming through,” adds Rankin. “I take being a role model as such an important part of what I do.

“I want to show to girls especially that there are opportunities there if they want to come into this sport. If you dream of becoming a world champion and headlining in your own city then you can do it.

“Women’s boxing is really on the rise. During the pandemic we had a captive audience at home when there wasn’t a whole lot of other sport going on. And people realised how exciting it was to watch and since then it has just gone up and up to the point where you’ve got Taylor and Serrano selling out the Garden. And I never thought I’d see that day.

“But we’re still constantly striving for change, to get the same pay as the men for all fights. And we’re also looking at the potential to move up to three-minute rounds. But there are a lot of positive things going on just now which is really encouraging.”

Broadcasters Fightzone have treated the build-up to tonight’s contest like any major bout. That meant a public work-out session last Saturday in Glasgow’s St Enoch’s centre, a media work-out day at Kynoch Gym, a full-scale press conference and the usual drama of the weigh-in and the head-to-heads.

Rankin is a natural with the public and took considerable heart from meeting a set of young boxing twins who revealed they had her poster on their bedroom wall.

“To be honest, I’ve been a little bit overwhelmed by the level of support I’ve had, especially over the past week,” she admits. “The public work-out was amazing and I wasn’t expecting that many people to turn up.

“There were three year-olds all the way to old grannies there! And people from all different cultures and backgrounds. It’s just good to see all types of people are wanting to be involved in this.

“I had little girls getting me to sign a poster and then sending me pictures of them with my poster on their wall. That kind of blew my mind a little bit. I never thought I’d be that person.

“That’s a real honour for me and why I work so hard to get where I am now.”