|Everlast, the brand of choice for generations of world champion athletes, today proudly welcomes Bilal Fawaz as its latest brand partner.
Fawaz will make his long-awaited professional debut next month, when he competes at York Hall on Friday 11 February. Even before he steps into the paid ranks for the first time, he has already had to overcome a number of massive obstacles in his life, beginning in 1988 when he was born in Nigeria to a Lebanese father and a Beninese mother.
Despite being born in Nigeria, it does not automatically result in citizenship. He never knew his father, and was subject to a difficult upbringing with his abusive mother. It then resulted in Fawaz being illegally trafficked as a 14-year-old into the UK from Nigeria, and placed into modern slavery.
Fawaz was able to escape from the building where he was being kept, and was then placed into care. At the age of 18 he was no longer the responsibility of the care system, and therefore had to apply for an extension to remain in the country to give him the ability to work, but it was refused.
Even though his application was refused, Fawaz was unable to be deported due to having no passport, along with the Nigerian and Lebanese embassies both declaring that Fawaz is not Nigerian nor Lebanese. His father did not name him as one of his sons before he died, making him stateless.
The legal battle continued for a number of years, and in order to try and deal with the setbacks he was being handed, Fawaz began boxing in 2012.
It soon became clear just how talented he was, and aged 24 he achieved the unthinkable by winning the National Amateur Championships, whilst also becoming an England international.
He is the latest to join Everlast’s existing stable of elite athletes, which includes Josh Taylor, Conor Benn, Sunny Edwards, Jack Catterall, Lee McGregor, Chantelle Cameron, Liam Smith, Jazza Dickens, Archie Sharp, Craig Richards, Natasha Jonas, Ramla Ali, Jordan Gill and Hopey Price. Together, the #TeamEverlast fighters seek to inspire the fight in us all.
In signing a long-term partnership with the premier fight sports and fitness brand, the athletes will use Everlast equipment and wear the new Greatness sportswear range. Battle-tested in one of the toughest athletic environments, Everlast products have been imagined by a hundred years in the gym, designed and engineered to empower your best self.
They exemplify Everlast’s values of authenticity and dedication, as we champion brave individuality, seeking out people and partners who express themselves boldly and creatively.
Commenting on the partnership, Fawaz said: “I’m extremely grateful to be partnering with Everlast. It is well-documented just how much of a struggle with adversity I have endured in my life, but having a brand such as Everlast supporting me has shown there is light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it now, I just have to go and grab it.
“Everlast is the biggest sports brand in boxing. They sponsored Muhammad Ali, who I watched as a kid, and now we wear the same logo. This is a dream come true for a someone who is a refugee. Now I can fully focus on matters inside the ring, as I look to make my mark as a professional. I shall make you all proud, so thank you for giving me a chance.”
Chris Zoller, Everlast’s VP of Marketing and Product Development, added: “It is a true privilege to welcome Bilal Fawaz as our latest brand partner. He has overcome incredible adversity in his life and we’re delighted to give him the backing he finally deserves.
“He has already proven himself to be a true champion outside of the ring, and we can’t wait to throw our support behind him and help him achieve his dream of becoming a champion inside the ring during his professional career.”
Fawaz was given a 30-month right to stay in the UK back in June 2020, bringing to an end a traumatic period which followed after his success as an amateur.
Despite receiving support from some of the sport’s top figures, the Home Office continued to refuse his work permit, which prevented him from earning money or claiming benefits.
With no income to survive on, Fawaz lost his home and was forced to sleep on the streets. Two wrongful arrests then took place in December 2017 and May 2019, where he was taken to Immigration Removal Centres before later being released.
With those difficulties appearing to now be firmly behind him, Fawaz is hopeful of achieving success in the paid ranks, and giving his story a happy ending.
Everlast and its users share an inner and outer strength. It is for those with a strong sense of self and commitment in whatever they do, in both athletic and non-athletic endeavours. Everlast supports the individual spirit that drives uniqueness and greatness within each of us.
Shop the Everlast collection as worn by #TeamEverlast fighters, at www.sportsdirect.com/everlast.
Explore the boxing journeys of our fighters at www.everlast.com/pro-team.