Amateur competitions now open to practicing Sikhs following rule change.
UK, Tuesday 13th March – Sikh ethos combat sport organisation Lions MMA led calls welcoming a decision to remove a ban on beards in amateur boxing competitions which prevented many from participating for religious reasons.
The change, announced today by Amateur Boxing Association England (England Boxing), starts from 1st June across England, whilst they have also pledged to ‘continue to lobby AIBA (International Boxing Association) to get the rule changed at an international level.’
Keeping kes (unshorn hair) is a mandatory part of the journey of following Sikhi, something all Sikhs will adhere to when committing to the faith, certified when becoming Amritdhari (an initiated Sikh, known as Khalsa).
Sevadaar (selfless volunteer) Indi Singh of Lions MMA, who run 11 boxing clubs across England, said of the decision, ‘This is great news. We run boxing clubs across the country but given our Sikh principles we could never advocate shaving to compete.
‘Sports like boxing will naturally appeal to Sikhs, given the warrior aspect of the faith. Now, we can happily encourage Sikhs into boxing and we are sure the sport will also benefit from more Sikhs being involved.’
The ban was originally in place due to obscure beliefs about beards being a potential health hazard in the sport. Dr Harbir Singh, a respected osteopath that worked with the Great Britain squad in the 2012 London Olympics and has himself competed in combat sports, dismissed these concerns.
‘There is little substance behind the beard ban; demonstrated by the change in the Canadian amateur boxing association rule, following a court case which found no valid medical rationale for the beard ban.
‘Uncut beards are not course enough to cause abrasions. They offer no advantages to the bearded boxer.’
Canada Boxing changed their own rules on a beard ban in the year 2000 following a court-case led by Sikh amateur boxing star Pardeep Singh.
Lions MMA took up the issue of England Boxing’s beard ban and began dialogue with England Boxing about it after seeing a growth in young Sikhs feeling restricted from progressing in the sport because of it. One of these Sikhs, Karam Singh, now feels positive about carving himself a career path in the sport.
‘This has given me the opportunity to do what I want with my life. As an Amritdhari Sikh, I never thought I would get this kind of chance through boxing.
‘I would like to thank my trainer Wayne Elcock as without him I wouldn’t have taken this issue up with Lions MMA. He gave me the confidence to know I can progress in the sport, and with the news of the beard ban being removed, we will be looking to take part in an amateur event as soon as possible.’
Indi Singh of Lions MMA added, ‘We sincerely appreciate England Boxing being accessible, open and honest in discussion of this issue, and we are delighted they decided to change the beard ban ruling. We looking forward to an exciting future for Sikhs in boxing.’
For more information or Sikh community reaction to the overturning of England Boxing’s beard ban, email Jasveer@SikhPA.com or call 07723966776.
See England Boxing’s statement on this rule change here.