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Boxer Wins Challenge Over Beard

December 1, 1999

TORONTO (AP) _ A bearded Sikh boxer won a court order allowing him to compete, but officials Wednesday canceled an entire weight division of the national championships because of the ruling.

The controversy focused on the beard that Pardeep Nagra, a light flyweight, wears for religious reasons.

Nagra was barred from the national tournament held by the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association because of the beard, which is prohibited under international amateur boxing regulations.

His lawyers obtained the court order allowing Nagra to fight with a net around his beard. The association then called off the light flyweight division matches at the Campbell River, British Columbia, tournament until the issue gets resolved.

``We just had an executive meeting and decided in fairness to both sides to suspend the 48-kilogram weight class division until we go to court,″ association president Hank Somers said.

Violating the international rules outlawing beards could put anyone involved in the tournament at risk of sanctions, he said.

``We are governed by the world body. Everybody that takes part is liable to suspension,″ Somers said. ``We’re certainly disappointed that this has happened.″

The ban on beards makes medical sense, he said, because an opponent ``could be injured from beard stubble or hair going in the eye.″

But Jim Smith, a lawyer for Nagra, called the association’s attempt to block Nagra ``arbitrary.″

``He is prepared to wear, and has worn, a net around his face that would prevent any errant hairs going into another opponent’s eye,″ Smith said.

Nagra, whose religion bars him from shaving, wore netting over the beard when winning the Ontario light-flyweight championship earlier this year. He had to file a human rights complaint last year to get the chance to compete.

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