Sports

Punjabi twins from Mississauga set to make their professional boxing debuts

Mississauga brothers Jimmy and Janu Sandhu say they've been waiting for this moment since they were kids. The Punjabi twins will be making their professional boxing debut in Mexico City later this month.

Jimmy and Janu Sandhu will fight professionally for the first time in Mexico City on Feb. 26

Jimmy, left, and Janu Sandhu say their mom brought them to a local boxing gym when they were 10 to help them get in shape. They've since opened Flash Bros Boxing and Fitness and are set to make their professional boxing debuts later this month. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Jimmy and Janu Sandhu say they feel like their years of training, early morning runs and hard work have led up to this moment.

The 25-year-old Punjabi twins from Mississauga will soon be making their professional boxing debuts in Mexico City on Feb. 26. Jimmy will be fighting in the super lightweight division, while Janu fights in the welterweight division.

It's something they weren't expecting when their mom first dropped them off at a local boxing gym when they were 10 years old.

"It's huge because growing up, looking the way we do, we haven't really seen a big Punjabi fighter," Jimmy said. "It feels like we have that platform."

The brothers spoke with CBC Toronto from their gym —  Flash Bros Boxing and Fitness — in Mississauga.

They run private sessions and group training classes teaching boxing and self defence. Janu says it's been a long journey getting to a place where they can work with clients in their own space.

WATCH | CBC Toronto's Talia Ricci met up with Jimmy and Janu Sandhu at their gym to learn more:

Punjabi twins from Mississauga set to make their professional boxing debuts

4 months ago
Duration 2:25
Jimmy and Janu Sandhu, 25-year old Punjabi twins from Mississauga, are set to make their professional boxing debuts in Mexico City on Feb. 26. CBC Toronto’s Talia Ricci met up with the brothers at their gym — Flash Bros Boxing and Fitness — to learn more.

"We used to train in parks, and we used to get kicked out of gyms all the time for teaching people there on guest memberships," he said.

Janu says they've learned a lot of life lessons throughout the years from the challenges they've experienced in the sport — ones that were especially important when they lost their father a few years ago.

"Being a fighter is more of a mindset. Boxing showed us sometimes you get knocked down and it's okay ... even in the regular world," he said.

Jimmy says representing their community is a huge motivation for them.

"Knowing that we can be those two guys from the Punjabi community to reach superstardom, that's going to make us work super hard," he said.

He says going through this journey alongside a twin gives them a leg up.

"We can be real with each other and if one of us is slacking, we set each other straight."

'It's really inspiring'

Moezine Hasham, who advocates for making sports more inclusive, says he is always happy to see more representation from the South Asian community in professional sports.

"When you have a platform at a professional level it allows young people to see themselves in the position you've attained and that's really important ... and it's inspiring for the next generation," said Hasham, the executive director and co-founder of the Hockey 4 Youth Foundation. 

"Jimmy and Janu's message of positivity and continuing to do what you love, and at the same time taking care of your physical and mental health ... they're important messages."

Jill Perry, chair of the high performance committee at Boxing Ontario, says their clubs attract a wide demographic of athletes.

"Many of our clubs are not-for-profit clubs that are welcoming to people of all income levels, all backgrounds and I think that's something that's very unique about our sport," she said.

Perry adds the boxing is still not quite as popular as other major sports, but it's constantly changing and growing.

"It's one of the fastest growing sports for women, so that's also changing the diversity and mix of people involved."

The twins say their upcoming fights are a stepping stone, and the goal is to become world champions. Jimmy says they don't want to get too ahead of themselves, but they are predicting early knockouts.

"We're feeling sharp, and we've been putting in a lot of work," he said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She has travelled around the globe with her camera documenting people and places as well as volunteering. Talia enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she's not reporting, you can find her reading or strolling the city with a film camera.

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