Ema Kozin no longer has to settle for being defined by her lone career defeat.

An awkward battle with former WBA titlist Hannah Rankin saw the visiting Slovenian claim a ten-round, split decision to win the vacant WBC and WBO junior middleweight titles. Glasgow’s Rankin won 96-94 on one card, overruled by scores of 96-94 and 98-92 for Kozin in their ESPN+ opener Saturday at AO Arena in Manchester, England.

The early rounds saw Rankin bob and weave on the inside, which disrupted Kozin’s offensive output. Rankin often made Kozin miss but her best moments came when she was able to land to the body.

Rankin landed a right uppercut to Kozin’s midsection in round four. It was the first time she found significant success with the punch after failed attempts to connect upstairs. Kozin shrugged off the sequence but was unable to return with anything of consequence.

Action was messy through the balance of the fight. Kozin worked her way inside with her jab but could not put a left hand behind it. Rankin’s response was often to tie up at close quarters, which disallowed any opportunity for a steady flow of offense.

Rankin began to time Kozin in round seven. The same approach was taken by the visiting Slovanian—throw her jab, look to land the left. Rankin was able to land to the body, which forced Kozin to box more from the outside.

The closing rounds saw Kozin attempt to press the action, which seemed to be the difference on two of the three scorecards. Rankin was able to get Kozin to follow her around the ring and make her miss, but frequent clinches and a lack of offense was her undoing in a fight that appeared to be in the balance down the stretch.

Kozin advanced to 24-1-1 (12KOs) with the by far her most significant win to date for her first title reign. She’d previously won two in a row versus middling opposition after a ten-round shutout defeat to three-division champ and pound-for-pound queen Claressa Shields last February.

Rankin fell to 13-7-1 (3KOs) in a failed bid to become a two-time junior middleweight titlist. Her previous reign also came with a vacant belt at stake, when outpointed journeywoman Maria Lindberger over ten rounds in their November 2021 vacant WBA 154-pound title fight. One successful defense followed before a ten-round defeat to Terri Harper last September in Nottingham.

Earlier on the show preceding the ESPN+ feed, Glasgow’s Nathaniel Collins claimed a majority decision over locally based Zak Miller (13-1, 3KOs) in their 12-round battle of unbeaten featherweights. Scores of 115-113 and 115-113 for Collins (14-0, 7KOs) overruled a 114-114 card in a fight described by British media as an absolute cracker.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox