Banned From The Ring, Bearded Sikh Boxer Fights Religious Discrimination

In 1999, Pardeep Singh Nagra was the Ontario flyweight amateur boxing champion. He was the best in the province, lightning-fast on his feet, and on his way to nationals.

But Nagra was told he wouldn’t be allowed to fight because he had a beard.

Officials said his beard was against the rules and posed a safety hazard. But for Nagra, a follower of the Sikh faith, hair is an important part of his religious beliefs.

“For me, as a member of the Sikh faith, our hair — our Kesh — is part of our articles of faith. And it was not something I was going to be willing to compromise arbitrarily.”

Nagra says that after he refused to shave, it became a “huge struggle.” He went head-to-head with the Canadian and Ontario amateur boxing associations.

After filing a human rights case against Boxing Ontario, he came to an agreement and was allowed to compete provincially.

But when Nagra reported for his weigh-in at nationals, they stopped him in his tracks and told him he was banned from fighting because of his beard.

“I said, ‘That’s fine, disqualify me’,” said Nagra. “And I went up to my room, called my coach and called my lawyer.”

Nagra left nationals that year without competing, and he and his lawyer filed a motion to allow followers of the Sikh faith to fight with their facial hair intact.