Hannah Rankin is fully prepared to welcome Terri Harper to the junior middleweight division.
The WBA/IBO 154-pound champion from Glasgow didn’t hesitate when he was offered the chance to take on Harper (12-1-1, 6KOs), a former junior lightweight champion who recently moved up to lightweight. The 25-year-old from Denaby Main, Yorkshire has now jumped three more weight classes in a bid to become a two-division champion 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 for the team, but the moment we were offered, I said, ‘Yes, I accept the fight.’ There was no stress on my part.
“I respect her abilities and have trained to beat a world champion. But she’s not a real 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 struggling at her natural weight, and no doubt with room to drop to 147 for the right opportunity, Rankin enters Saturday’s DAZN co-feature as a +260 underdog according to Caesars Sportsbook, which currently lists Harper as favorite of -330.
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 time at weight. A switch to lightweight has since been made, where Harper overcame a cut over her left eye to win a ten-round decision over Yamila Belen Abellaneda on March 12 in the same arena hosting Saturday’s title fight. .
In late spring, speculation surfaced that Harper was considering a drastic jump in weight for a chance to compete for a 154-pound title. Rankin defended her title in a 10th-round knockout of Alejandra Ayala, a fight that ended with the Mexican challenger going into a medically induced coma and remaining in that state for ten days after recovering from surgery to remove a subdural hematoma.
Rankin weighed his options for his next fight, also considering 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 fight was outweighed by the opportunity to face a bigger name in Harper, whose frame holds up well in the 154-pound division but will fight at her ideal weight against a natural junior middleweight.
“She is a former world champion. I respect her for that, I’d be stupid not to,” admits Rankin. “I respect her abilities and have trained to beat a world champion. But I can’t see any drastic adjustment of it. To be honest, I don’t think she’s had enough time to adjust to the new weight.”
Rankin-Harper serves as the co-main event for DAZN. Topping the list, IBO lightweight champion Maxi Hughes defends against former IBF featherweight champion Kid Galahad moving up in weight.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox