A TALENTED young boxer was banned from fighting in his debut bout — because of his beard and religion.

Mohammed Patel, who has the beard as part of his Muslim faith, has now lost all motivation to box and is on the verge of quitting the sport.

The 25-year-old was due to fight in front of a packed house of 300 spectators at Bolton Lads and Girls Club’s annual boxing night, earlier this year — but a competition official told him he could not take part unless he shaved.

Mr Patel, from Astley Bridge said: “I was gobsmacked — I didn’t know what to say. When I saw the rule book, I thought, ‘What can I do?’.”

The Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE) rules state that fighters must be clean shaven for health and safety reasons.

There is an allowance for Sikh boxers, who must wear a net — but the rule book makes no mention of any other religion.

When Mr Patel arrived early at the club to weigh in for the bout last January, he was asked by the event’s OIC (Official in Charge) if he was Sikh.

He said he was Muslim and was then told he would have to shave if he wanted to take part. He refused and was not allowed to fight.

The promising boxer’s plight has since been taken up by Inayat Omarji, from the Bolton Council of Mosques (BCOM), who is now trying to force a change in the rules.

He said: “I was shocked. I spoke to the ABAE to ask them for the rule to be changed but we seem to have got nowhere in 11 months.

“If the governing body doesn’t accept the religion then there’s a big problem.”

Mr Patel had been boxing for around three years but since the bout that never was, he has lost all interest in the sport.

Coach, Mark Tustin, who trains boxers at Bolton Lads and Girls Club, said the young fighter had potential.

He said: “He trained tremendously, especially in the run up to the fight. Since this happened he’s not been back training. It has demoralised him.

“There is a talent there with Mohammed. He could definitely be a good boxer on the amateur scene.”

Mr Tustin said Mr Patel may even have had the potential to turn professional. He also said the competition official had no choice but to follow the official ABAE rules.

Barry Jones of the ABAE said the organisation had asked its international governing body the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) to look into the matter.

Mr Jones said the ABAE was sympathetic towards the cause but would wait for a ruling from AIBA. He also said he believed this was the first time a Muslim boxer had raised the issue with the ABAE.

He added: “It is unfortunate that it has been a slow process but we want to see a common sense resolution.”

Mr Omarji said he attached no blame to competition officials at the event and praised the work of Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

Letters have now been sent by BCOM to Sport England, as well as to local MPs and the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport, asking them to support a rule change.