New film profiles boxer Pardeep Singh Nagra and his fight for religious freedom

Religion News Service | 12/4/2018 | Staff
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(RNS) — Two decades ago, Pardeep Singh Nagra was headed for the top.

An up-and-coming Canadian boxer, Nagra had captured the Ontario light flyweight amateur championship and was set to compete for the national title. Before his match, however, the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association (CABA) announced that its rules prohibited him from competing because of his beard.

Nagra - Devout - Sikh - Dilemma - Faith

That left Nagra, a devout Sikh, with a dilemma. Because of his faith, he did not want to shave his beard — for him, his Sikh identity mattered more than his boxing career. But this didn’t mean that Nagra would stop fighting. Instead, Nagra decided to take on CABA to ensure that no other religious minorities would ever have to choose between their love for their faith and their love for their sport.

Nagra eventually won this fight, convincing CABA to change its rules. His story is profiled in a new feature biopic called “Tiger,” which is launched this week across North America. I had the privilege of speaking with Nagra to learn more about his journey, what it’s meant to him and what he hopes people will take away from his experiences.

Interview - Length - Clarity

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us a little bit about how and why you got into boxing.

Lot - Sports - Championships - Tennis - Track

I grew up playing a lot of sports and winning many championships including in tennis, track, soccer, badminton, ball hockey and wrestling. Being an athlete is just part of my DNA, and I usually see myself as a student of the game, a coach’s athlete. I got into boxing after a football (soccer) injury that required shoulder surgery.

Unfortunately, the surgery took place as I began training as an auxiliary constable with Peel Regional Police. I was required to attend all training sessions; otherwise, I would have had to reapply to become an officer. I...
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