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Hannah Rankin a champion inside and outside the ring

WBA and IBO Super Welterweight champion and BoxWise ambassador Hannah Rankin works through some exercises and activities with girls from homes across Cape Town. Photo: MoreMediaHits

WBA and IBO Super Welterweight champion and BoxWise ambassador Hannah Rankin works through some exercises and activities with girls from homes across Cape Town. Photo: MoreMediaHits

Published Jun 14, 2022


Cape Town — Hannah Rankin epitomizes the word “champion”.

Not only has she honed her skills and refined her talents as a boxer and a musician, but she also uses her time, heart and knowledge to help those in need.

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Rankin — who recently beat Alejandra Ayala to retain her World Boxing Association and International Boxing Organization super welterweight titles — visited South Africa once again to launch the BoxWise programme.

BoxWise is a non-profit social enterprise that uses boxing to help people at risk or from disadvantaged backgrounds with the aim of building their confidence, instilling discipline, adaptability and improving their health before assisting them with education and employment opportunities.

The London-based brand brought Rankin on board as an ambassador and she could not contain her excitement at the thought of bringing the project down to SA, a country she fell in love with after her first visit last year when she beat Kholosa Ndobayini on the Fight Africa (in partnership with Jackie Brice) Promotions card at Pollsmoor Prison.

BoxWise — working along with the Professional Fighting Championship gym in Bothasig — ran a five-day pilot project with organisations in Cape Town that are home to girls and ladies who were neglected, abused or at risk.

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The project included participants from Rainbow House, Home to Home, Micah House, St Anne’s Home and Wolraad Woltemade Primary School.

“It is a 10-week course, with one session per week. This week we did a condensed five-day programme which mirrored the 10-week syllabus. Due to the success of this pilot we are now rolling out two 10-week programmes for both juniors and adults starting this month which will be run by the PFC gym. I have ensured that all the participants from the five-day programme get first choice as to whether they would like to do the new 10-week programme,” said BoxWise co-founder Rick Odgen, who helped start the project in 2020 which now runs across 35 gyms and currently includes 40 programmes.

Rankin said that there has been nothing more rewarding than having the opportunity to empower young girls and ladies who seemed quickly warmed-up to Rankin and her BoxWise team as they used boxing as a conduit to help inspire, uplift and improve the lives of these individuals.

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“I am really proud to be an ambassador for BoxWise, and when we had the opportunity to bring it to South Africa I was really happy to do that,” said Rankin.

“I have a voice that people listen to, especially as a champion. I want my legacy to be one that sees me do as much as I can for people, through boxing and through all my other ventures,” said Rankin who is also a professional bassoonist.

“This project has got a personal space in my heart. Listening to their stories and welcoming them into the BoxWise family has been a real privilege.”

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Rankin added that despite the physical and cultural distance between her and the girls living miles away from each other, she connected with them immediately.

“I am blessed to have two careers or paths, one with boxing and one with music, but with both of these, you don't need to speak the language, it doesn't matter where you come from, all that matters is your hunger to learn. If you walk into any boxing gym in the world, if you are willing to put the work in, you can go really far, and that is how it connects worldwide. Boxing or music … And these girls and ladies are testament to that,” added Rankin.

Pastor Steve Cloete who is on the governing body of the Wolraad Woltemade Primary School added: “Within two to three days, we could see such a major difference, a transformation. There has been a big change, even towards their school work. It’s been phenomenal to see the emotional difference BoxWise has made.”

Ogden revealed: “The test for me is, ‘where will we be in one, two or 10 years’ time with the BoxWise programme. I am looking to return to South Africa in November to celebrate what should be the fourth graduated programme.”

Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children director Bernadine Bachar welcomed the BoxWise programme in Cape Town.

“The economic empowerment and education of women and girls are critical components in addressing both gender inequality and gender-based violence in South Africa,” said Bachar.

“Interventions that are community-based are especially necessary. A holistic approach to addressing GBV is crucial in empowering women survivors and their children,” says Bachar who is at the forefront of the fight against GBV.

Ogden said: “Just by driving around in Cape Town, based on the posters and campaigns we have seen on bus stops and at shelters, it was pretty clear that GBV is a huge problem here.

“And this is at the core of what we are trying to achieve with our BoxWise South Africa all-female programme. To play our part in helping identify issues and tackle gender-based violence and ensure the reduction of it.”

In February this year, police minister Bheki Cele released crime statistics for the third quarter of 2021-22. Between October and December alone there were 902 reported murder and 11 315 rape cases.

Bachar reiterated the importance of men taking responsibility as the most important factor in correcting ills that prevent the prosperity of women and children.

“We will not be able to address GBV in South Africa adequately without working with men and boys to dismantle the harmful beliefs and practices that underpin the patriarchy and which bolster GBV,” added Bachar who confirmed that the Saartje Baartman Centre in Manenberg, Cape Town assists approximately 8 000 survivors of GBV annually.


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