Quinton Rankin has learned a lot about the fight game in the past year, and very little has had to do with right crosses, uppercuts or combinations.
The 25-year old Jackson Park neighborhood boxer is undefeated in four professional bouts, but the toughest challenge is getting opponents.
Rankin and his manager, Charlotte businessman John Cunnane, have been knocking on doors for a year trying to boost Rankin's resume. What they often find are regionally based promoters who don't want to risk their hometown fighters losing. Promotes say that would be bad for ticket sales.
That's why Rankin's Jan. 7 match against Cuban-born Umberto Savigne in Hollywood, Fla., is so important. Rankin must take advantage of every opportunity in the light heavyweight division.
Cunnane says that if Rankin, who has three wins by knockout, can register another four to five victories, he can be ranked high enough to earn bouts with top fighters. Until then, Rankin will have to chase all the fights he can get.
Having grown up in Charlotte, Rankin started his amateur career in 2008. He won five fights, including a state Golden Gloves championship.
In fall 2010, Rankin traveled to California to train at the famed Wild Card Gym, home facility of world champion Manny Pacquiao.
Upon Rankin's return to Charlotte, Cunnane arranged for his first pro bout. At the Charlotte Convention Center, Rankin knocked out novice Allen Williams two minutes into the first round.
Rankin, a 6-foot, 175-pound southpaw, knocked out newcomer Dominique Winstead in his second fight, in June in Winston-Salem. Then he beat Chris Jordan, a fighter with a 5-4 record, in Atlanta in July in a fourth-round technical knockout.
His most recent bout was a six-round unanimous decision against experienced fighter William Gill in Wilson. Gill entered the contest 9-27.
New to the fight game himself, Cunnane says he has learned promoters often are the gatekeepers to scheduling fights. "What you'll find ... are promoters that don't want to bring a kid up from Charlotte to fight a kid from Brooklyn," said Cunnane. "They want to put people in the seats, and they're not going to do that by having their guy get beat."
Cunnane says American fighters often avoid Cuban-trained boxers because of that country's history of developing good fighters. That hasn't deterred Rankin, however, who will fight someone with reportedly more than 400 amateur bouts when he faces Savigne.
Some people in the business have suggested Rankin move to a larger city to spar and become part of those city's fight scenes. He has trained in larger cities but always returns to Charlotte and his family: wife Joyce, 3-year-old daughter, Jayla, and 2-year-old son, Quinton Jr.