The former England amateur boxer Kelvin Bilal Fawaz, who won his 16-year legal battle with the Home Office for the right to remain in the UK, is launching his professional career after being signed by MTK Global, one of the world’s largest boxing management agencies.
Fawaz, who has represented England six times and was once an amateur champion, has spent his adult life struggling to establish his nationality and immigration status after being trafficked from Nigeria to the UK as a child and kept in domestic servitude.
After he escaped his traffickers, he was placed in care, but when he was 18 the discretionary leave he had been granted as a child expired and the Home Office refused to accept he was stateless.
He spent the next 16 years in legal limbo as the Home Office repeatedly delayed making decisions on his case, refused to grant him a work permit and attempted to deport him to Nigeria, even though the Nigerian government denied him a passport and citizenship
He was twice arrested and detained in immigration removal centres before the Home Office accepted he was a victim of child trafficking and granted him the right to live and work in the UK for 30 months in June . He has since launched legal action against the Home Office for unlawful detention.
Fawaz said that discovering boxing as a teenager was his “salvation” after a childhood of pain and trauma, and he quickly emerged as a prodigious talent. Yet his lack of a work permit meant he was denied the chance of a professional career or the opportunity to box for England in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
Over the years, some of the biggest names in the sport have appealed to the Home Office on his behalf, including the boxing promoter Frank Warren. Former champion Barry McGuigan wrote to the Home Office in 2014 praising Fawaz’s “exceptional talent” and offered him a £230,000 contract.
MTK Global, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious boxing agencies, representing stars including Tyson Fury and Josh Taylor, said the company vowed to give him the opportunities he deserved in the sport.
“His determination to overcome adversity is a real inspiration to all,” said MTK Global vice-president Jamie Conlan. “This is the first step of many in his professional boxing career, and I’m looking forward to seeing him show the world his skills.”
Fawaz said his signing with MTK was a “rebirth” after more than a decade of trauma and uncertainty.
“Two years ago, when I was sitting in immigration detention, I thought my life was over. I was cutting myself just to relieve the pain of what I was going through. I never thought in a million years I would be in the position where I would be standing proudly on the verge of launching a professional boxing career,” he said.
“The whole process with the Home Office tried to strip me of my identity and my potential but I kept the faith in myself and the people who believed in me and I know I can go on to do great things both in and outside the boxing ring.”
Fawaz said he aimed to spend time outside his training schedule mentoring and supporting children within the asylum claims process.
“I want to use what happened to me and turn all those negatives into positive change,” he said. “There is nothing to gain from looking backwards, for me it’s all about making up for lost time and showing the world what I’m capable of.”