A Sikh boxer whose grandfather, dad and uncle were also in the sport is determined to carry on the legacy even further. Inder Bassi Singh, 25, from Ilford, became interested in the sport at a young age – he recalls his grandfather being one of the first South Asian boxers in the UK during the 1960s.
Although his grandad was not able to pursue the sport professionally, due to being the sole provider for his family, he had always encouraged his own children to partake in the sport. He was initially influenced by Muhammed Ali after seeing him as the only ethnic minority boxer, especially as boxing was not that popular in the South Asian community.
Inder lives with his grandparents and speaks fluent Punjabi, he has always maintained ties with his culture and roots. The East London based fighter represented England as an amateur and is racking up the wins with hopes of working towards a title. He’s popular as one of the first career boxers from the Sikh community that wears a dastaar (Sikh turban).
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(Image: Inder Bassi Singh)
Speaking to MyLondon about his family, Inder said: “My grandparents are from India, Punjab, my grandad was around 16 when he came over and he had to work. When my grandad was growing up he always liked Muhammed Ali and he started boxing though boxing isn’t really a Punjabi and Indian sport, they usually wrestle.
“He was so motivated by Muhammed Ali and my grandad was one of the first South Asian boxers in the 60s. But he couldn’t do it full time as he had to support family in England and in India.
“My uncle and dad both then competed and won titles, my uncle was an amateur boxer and the London champion back in the 80s. My dad was a wrestler but they weren’t in a position to follow it further and had to work and pay bills.”
But fortunately, Inder was encouraged by his family to pursue the career and has now been boxing professionally for the last two years. As a member of the Sikh faith, Inder also campaigned against the beard ban which required amateur boxers to shave their beards for matches.
He said: “I was involved in overturning the beard rule – amateur boxers aren’t allowed any facial hair regardless of age and religion, so they’re all clean-shaven across the world. That’s against Sikh beliefs and although I didn’t need to shave when I was young, while I was getting older it did worry me.
“Baptised Sikhs cannot shave their beard, so a few Sikhs got together to write to England boxing and asked them to overturn the rule. We got the legal team involved and I was a case study, because of myself and few other prominent Sikhs in England and Canada you can box with a beard.”
Although Inder is not baptised he considers himself quite in touch with his culture and religion. Throughout his career, he has been involved with local Sikh temples in London, and he often helps out with free kids boxing class in the Gurdwaras.
He added: “I wear a turban on normal days, when I fight I tie my hair back as it gets in the way. It’s my third year now as pro and by end of this year I’ll be fighting titles – I’m only 25 so there is a long journey ahead.
“Being South Asian, Indian, Pakistani, Bengali, it’s not really common to be an athlete – especially boxer. You have Amir Khan who is Pakistani, but Indian are rare. My family was really supportive but a lot of South Asians don’t see it as a career.”
The boxer is already making moves by being the first South Asian boxer to be signed by MTK Global, the biggest boxing management company in the world.
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I am the Race and Diversity Correspondent for MyLondon, and I enjoy writing about stories to do with ethnic minorities.
The stories I’m most proud of are ones where I can get an insight into the experiences of individuals, such as this powerful independent woman who fled Eritrea and ended up opening her own salon in Brixton.
I also love supporting ethnic minority owned businesses and finding out about owners’ own experiences and inspirations behind their menus, for example the story of this Chinese bakery.
My own interests and experiences also weave into my stories so that readers can get an insight into my South Asian heritage, as you can see from this story about Karak Chai which I’m ever so passionate about!
Although I was born and raised in London, I would say I’m very connected to my own culture as a British Pakistani who is fluent in Urdu.
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