Fight cancelled to keep bearded boxer out of ring

The Canadian Amateur Boxing Association has cancelled an entire weight class division at its national championships rather than allow a bearded boxer in the ring.

Pardeep Nagra is Ontario's light-flyweight champion. He's also a practising Sikh which requires him to wear a beard. But under the association rules, no facial hair is allowed for safety reasons.

Nagra went to court to win the right to compete in this week's championships in Campbell River, B.C. He won a court injunction on Wednesday ordering the association to let him fight.

But boxing officials decided to cancel the competition for his weight class division instead.

The president of the association said that because international rules require boxers to be clean-shaven, allowing Nagra to compete would put all the boxers in his division at risk of suspension.

Nagra says the rule is discriminatory against all religions that require members to wear a beard. And he says safety concerns have never been proven. He believes the association is trying to portray an image of clean-shaven boxers.

"I'm disappointed not only for myself but for the other athletes," he said in Toronto.

"The association had every opportunity to correct a wrong and do what is right, not only for boxing, but for the athletes." Nagra says he has the support of the other boxers in his weight class.

This isn't the first time Nagra has gone to court to win the right to box competitively.

He filed a human rights complaint in Ontario 18 months ago. The issue was resolved by allowing him to wear a net over his beard when he's in the ring.

The head of the World Sikh Organization of Canada says this battle isn't over yet.

Anne Lowthian says Nagra's lawyers will fight the rule in court and they'll seek damges for loss of opportunity.