BOXER Kelvin Fawaz is being held in a detention centre. Having been sent to the UK as a child Fawaz has lived in this country for 14 years. Undocumented, unable to work, he boxed. He was a familiar face on the amateur circuit, competing with flair (leaping in the air to land superman punches was one of his signature moves). He won the ABA championships in 2012, regularly won the London region. Fawaz reached the semi-finals of the national Elite championships in 2015. Only this year he made it to the quarter-finals of England Boxing Elite championships and he has won the Haringey Box Cup multiple times. There were significant offers on the table for him to turn professional, but without papers he could not take them up.
So he cleaned Stonebridge amateur boxing club and trained there. That was where immigration officials snatched him.
Officers in plain clothes began to appear at the gym. “They came down to the gym, some time last week,” said coach Aamir Ali. “Everyone in the gym said there were two shady guys around, so lo and behold it happened to be those guys… You can imagine how shady they must have been. They’d only come in for 20 minutes of a session and then leave. They basically came in, 10 of them, two undercover and eight uniformed ones picked him up.”
Kelvin, speaking from the detention centre, told Boxing News, “They saw that I’m a fighter. They thought that I was going to throw a crazy tantrum and go crazy. But they never knew I’m not that type of person. I fight in the ring. I don’t fight outside the ring. When you can fight in the ring you don’t have to prove yourself out of the ring, because that’s for kids. So I surrendered. I didn’t even speak to them. I gave them my hand. They handcuffed me.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I was at the gym and they came and they just took me.”
Fawaz is now without liberty and in limbo. “The position he is in right now, the Home Office are saying they can’t get papers to send him back to Nigeria because he himself, his mum was never Nigerian. She was actually from the Benin republic, his dad was actually Lebanese. His mum had migrated to Nigeria but never taken up residency in the country. His dad and mum got married and they had Fawaz and he was sent to this country. He was basically used as a slave. He was sent to this country on the premise that his dad was here [he wasn’t and Fawaz was forced to do] cooking and cleaning. So he escaped and went to social services from the age of 14, 15,” Ali said. “He ran to social services and from social services they looked after him up to 18, 19, 20 years old.”
Fawaz was someone who had used boxing to turn his life around. “He didn’t have any type of people to look up to, all of his friends were you could say gangsters, whatever they were, he lived that life,” Ali continued. “Then he found boxing.”
But that has all been taken from him. “I am stateless. Stateless is a person who has no home. I’ve been here for fourteen years. That should be enough to sanction this to be my home,” Kelvin said.
His coach said, “Now he’s grown up, that past life, whatever he said has now affected him and destroyed his whole life. A guy that had changed his life through boxing. He hasn’t been able to work, he hasn’t been able to have a marriage, he hasn’t been able to buy a house, he’s not able to do nothing. So he comes here and cleans my gym for me.”
It could have been very different. “He beat Ted Cheeseman in the London finals, Ted Cheeseman he is where he is now, Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell are where they are now, he’s seen his lottery ticket handed to him and then taken away from him. He’s used boxing as a tool,” Ali said. “Got to the quarter-finals in April this year with anti-depressants. So boxing has literally kept him as safe as he can be.”
Kelvin said, “I have depression right now. At times I sit down and I burst out crying. I don’t break down and start crying because I’m weak. I break down and start crying because I know I can do much more, but I can’t.
“In the boxing ring I can handle myself because I know I can protect myself. I can do something. In this problem I couldn’t do anything. When something has been haunting you for 14 years. All of a sudden all that 14 years, the weight just gets bombarded on to you. It takes a hold on you.
His situation remains unresolved. “His life is disappearing. In the end they will give him his papers most probably but what’s he going to do as a trade? What’s he going to do as trade?” Ali said.
Fawaz was selected to box for England. But he couldn’t pursue his amateur career further because undocumented he could not compete internationally. He has sparred professional fighters and was a key sparring partner for Josh Taylor as he prepared for Ohara Davies. “You saw what he did to Ohara Davies,” Ali said.
The trainer remembered dropping Kelvin back at the club after one of his sparring sessions with Taylor. “I looked at him,” he said, “and I thought you know what, this is a guy that should be a millionaire today. He’s having to go upstairs and clean the gym.”