Not able to recover from shoulder surgery after a soccer injury because of training commitments to Peel Regional Police as an Auxiliary Constable, Pardeep took up the sport of Boxing to heal and rehabilitate. Little did he know that if he ever pursued the sport that his biggest fight would be outside the ring.
When confronted with the choice to choose between his faith and the sport of boxing, Pardeep chose both!
Like others including Nelson Mandela, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Mohamed Ali and Johann Trollmann, who transcended the sport of Boxing into human rights, Pardeep continued to train in boxing while pursuing the right to compete with a beard. The journey witnessed the good, bad and real ugly that life had to offer.
Many unsuccessful attempts were made by Pardeep to have the archaic rules that prohibited a beard for boxers changed and the issue resolved. After all, the origins of the rules for no beards in boxing had nothing to do with boxing or safety, but rather strictly aesthetics/appearance derived from the old British Kings Order of Rules. This included a presentation to the Canadian Amateur Boxing Association (CABA) at its Board of Directors Meeting followed by a motion that was defeated by a count of 9-6.
As a result Pardeep had to file an Ontario Human rights complaint for the right to compete. The complaint was mediated and Pardeep was now able to compete. Pardeep’s first competition was at the Ontario Provincial Novice Championships, where he won. Pardeep would then continue to box with the goal of fighting at the Canadian National Championships.
Matches were difficult to come by for various reasons, and when they did come, they were filled with racial undertones and vindictiveness. It was difficult not only for Pardeep, but Jamestown Boxing Club and its boxers as well. Eventually, Pardeep was the Ontario representative at the 1999 Canadian Amateur Boxing Championships which were qualifiers towards the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Just prior to the start of the Canadian Championships, rumours abound that they were not going to let the “Sikh” boxer compete. This eventually caught the ear of the media and a national and eventual international media storm erupted/ensued.
Although already now competing in Canada, Pardeep was disqualified from weighing in and competing at the National Boxing Championships in Campbell River British Columbia because of his beard. At literally the same moment, in an unprecedented move, Pardeep’s legal team was heading to Court in Toronto now with a new twist to their case. The cards were stacked against Pardeep, his legal team had to first get the case on the docket/schedule to possibly be heard. Then the presiding Judge would have to accept the case to be heard and without the other party present. Then the legal team would have to convince the Judge to make a ruling – all within the scheduled weigh-in time period of 8-10 a.m. Vancouver time, 10-12 a.m. Toronto time.
Fate joined the side of Pardeep and the case was heard and a decision was rendered in Pardeep’s favour. An injunction was given for Pardeep to compete in the Canadian National Boxing Championship with his article of faith (beard) intact. The message was relayed from Toronto to Vancouver to both the officials of CABA and Pardeep.
Pardeep went back down to the weigh-ins but was left sitting and refused weigh-in and after a period of time brought into a room by CABA officials and told with other fellow boxers from his weight class present that as a result of the injunction, they would rather cancel the whole weight class rather than allow Pardeep to compete.
The decision by CABA put Pardeep’s life in jeopardy. Along with regular racial taunts Pardeep was physically attacked by a scissor and razor wielding man.
The fight outside the ring was not over as the injunction was just for the National tournament. Pardeep had to continue the legal battle. Eventually, Pardeep went back to court to seek a final binding decision and won.
When the cancelled weight class was reconvened, Pardeep fought the eventual National Champion and received the Bronze Medal.
Pardeep has always seen his Boxing journey as a responsibility and it has taken a life of its own. In fact, Pardeep appears on the front cover of a History textbook used in Canadian schools with the likes of former Canadian Prime Ministers and great iconic Canadian sports moments like the 1972 Paul Henderson goal in the Canada/Russia series. The classic is Board Game Trivial Pursuit featuring a question about Pardeep. Many other textbooks and books feature Pardeep’s story and he is regularly talked about in classrooms in Canada and around the world. Over 18 years later, Pardeep’s boxing story still resonates with people and serves as an inspiration for many. For Prem Singh, the inspiration became a lifelong dream resulting in the Hollywood Film Tiger based on the true story of Pardeep’s boxing starring Mickey Rourke, Janel Parrish, Prem Singh and Michael Pugliese.
While many family, friends and colleagues were instrumental in Pardeep’s boxing journey, he would be remiss not to single a few out. First and foremost, his coach, mentor, confidant, ally, supporter Dewith Frazer and family. Lawyers Satwinder Gosal, Chris Leafloor, and Jim Smith. Word smith Jeet Heer. Justice . Journalist Chris Jones. Boxing Champion Andrew Singh Kooner. Anne Lowthian and WSO. And finally, boxers and staff at Jamestown and Champions Boxing club.