There’s more to Quinton Rankin than what you see on the surface. Peel back the layers and you’ll find Rankin boasts more wisdom and experience than professional boxers with twice as many fights on their resume.
The 32-year-old southpaw from North Carolina is just 16 days away from the biggest fight of his career, an eight-round showdown against former two-time world champion “Bad” Chad Dawson of New Haven, Conn., Saturday, June 29th, 2019 at Foxwoods Resort Casino’s historic Fox Theater, headlining a stacked pro-am card promoted by CES Boxing.
Limited tickets are available at $47, $77 and $157 (VIP) and can be purchased online at www.cesboxing.com or www.foxwoods.com, by phone at 401-724-2253 or 800-200-2882 or at the Fox Theater Box Office. All fights and fighters subject to change.
The tale of the tape paints a tall order for Rankin (15-5-2, 12 KOs); at the height of his career, Dawson (34-5, 19 KOs) was the king of the light heavyweight division, winning the WBC, IBF and WBO world titles and earning his spot among the all-time greats with convincing wins over Bernard Hopkins, Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver during an unparalleled seven-year run.
Rankin has never faced anyone as established as Dawson, but he’s bottled up all the knowledge he’s gained from having worked in a number of elite training camps through the years helping champions and challengers in various weight classes prepare for big fights. He recently spent time with former WBO super middleweight champion Gilberto Ramirez in advance of Ramirez’s knockout win over Tommy Karpency in April and has also worked with Thomas Williams Jr., Andre Dirrell and former WBC youth champion John Jackson.
In an ironic twist of fate, Rankin also sparred with pound-for-pound king Andre Ward to help Ward get ready for his own fight against Dawson in 2012. Three or four years ago, Rankin admits he wouldn’t have felt comfortable stepping into the ring against a fighter of Dawson’s pedigree, but now considers himself a much different fighter after working alongside some of the sport’s best, both past and present.
“I’m 100-percent confident I can beat Chad Dawson and will do it in impressive fashion,” Rankin said. “I’ll be able to capitalize on Chad’s flaws. A lot of fighters have seen his flaws and capitalized on them.
“The problem with me is they only have footage from three years ago. I’m a different fighter now. He’ll have a problem adjusting to the new me. Mentally, he isn’t counting on how tough I am. I’ve seen him mentally crushed under pressure.”
This is by far Rankin’s toughest test in eight years as a professional. His most notable win came in April when he upended 11-1 Columbian light heavyweight Neller Obregon by fourth-round knockout. He’s also faced unbeaten New Haven prospect Charles Foster, top-10 world-rated Russian Medzhid Bektemirov and former title-challenger Mike Gavronski. None of those fights, he says, taught him as much as he learned while spending time in Ward’s camp in 2012. At the time, Ward was 28 years old on the brink of keeping his perfect record intact and defending his WBA and WBC super middleweight titles for the fifth time.
“I realized I had a lot of work to do as far as stamina is concerned,” Rankin said. “Skill-wise, I didn’t feel like I was out of my element, but from a conditioning standpoint, Ward is out of this world.
“He doesn’t razzle-dazzle you with speed like Roy Jones. He’s just a workhorse. Once you fade, he’s picking it up, and that’s when you realize, ‘Man, this dude is in shape.’ That’s how he beat [Sergey] Kovalev — his conditioning was better.”
Rankin stepped his game up after working with Ward and also stepped up the level of competition over the next few years, but as a relatively unknown southpaw from North Carolina — historically not a breeding ground for championship-level fighters — he’s still often pigeonholed as just another fringe contender in an exceedingly deep talent pool. He’s had to earn respect the hard way, carrying that underdog mentality into each fight, whether in the ring or in the gym.
“Every time I got into a camp, they say, ‘Damn, you don’t fight like a North Carolina fighter,'” Rankin said. “I’m a future world champion. A lot of people don’t understand that. No one ever protected me. They just throw you to the wolves, but when you throw someone to the wolves, they become a wolf.
“Yeah, I took some losses, but I don’t plan on losing anymore.”
The opportunity to fight Dawson is a dream come true. Rankin admits he’s followed Dawson’s career closely through the years and has even taken elements from his style and implemented them into his own repertoire.
“To get a chance to get in there with him is an honor, but, like I told my brother, ‘I love you, but when you put those gloves on, I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.’
“It’s not hard for me at all. I always come with respect, but I’m coming to put my gloves on you. We can touch gloves at the beginning and in the end, but in between that I’m trying to hurt you.”
Rankin and his wife have three children — an 11-year-old daughter, and two boys, ages 2 and 10 — and the southpaw works as a boxing trainer at the TITLE Boxing Club on Ayrsley Town Boulevard in Charlotte, which he says keeps him sharp in between fights.
“Teaching someone who isn’t trying to compete gives me a different perspective of intellect. It has actually risen my boxing IQ,” Rankin said. “You have to sometimes break things down for them and verbalize the fundamentals, and if I’m not doing things right I have to correct myself. It keeps me honest.”
Rankin’s bold persona and humble, yet confident, attitude adds a whole new layer of intrigue to the June 29th showcase at Foxwoods. What many have billed as the “homecoming” for Dawson, who hasn’t fought in two and a half years, could be the coming-out party for the underrated Rankin, who is ready for his closeup on boxing’s biggest stage.
“I have nothing to lose,” he said. “If I beat this guy, my whole life changes.”
The co-feature June 29th pits unbeaten New Haven featherweight Tramaine Williams (17-0, 6 KOs) against Filipino challenger Neil John Tabanao (17-5, 11 KOs) in a 10-round bout. Manchester, Conn., super welterweight Jose Rivera (7-4, 5 KOs) battles Luca Podda (7-3, 3 KOs) of Miami in a six-round bout and Oscar Bonilla (5-3-2, 1 KO) of Bridgeport, Conn., faces Julio Perez (4-3) of Worcester, Mass., in a six-round lightweight bout.
Also featured on the main card, New Haven female flyweight Marisa Belenchia (0-0) makes her professional debut against Delaney Owen (0-2) of Clearwater, Fla., and featherweight Nathan Martinez (3-0, 1 KOs) of Bridgeport puts his unbeaten record on the line against Minnesota’s Jose Homar Rios (2-6-1, 1 KO), both in four-round bouts. Junior welterweight Wilson Mascarenhas (1-1) of New Bedford, Mass., faces Joshua Oxendine (0-0) of Pembroke, N.C., and undefeated featherweight Jacob Marrero (3-0, 2 KOs) returns to Foxwoods for the third time in a separate four-round bout.
Showtime for the main card is 7 p.m. ET, preceded by a 10-fight amateur preliminary card featuring Dawson’s son, Chad Dawson Jr., and the debut of Lennox Estrada, the son of U.S. Olympian and former heavyweight title-challenger Jason Estrada of Providence, R.I. The main card streams live on Facebook via FIGHTNIGHT LIVE.