By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Rapper DMX beat out over 15,000 other applicants for a chance to throw a punch at former Florida neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in a celebrity boxing match, according to entertainment news website TMZ.
The potential match on March 1, what would have been Trayvon Martin’s 19th birthday, could pit Zimmerman, who was found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of the unarmed black teenager, against the trash-talking musician with a history of arrests, most of them drug or driving offenses.
Earl Simmons, 43, better known as DMX, won the 2000 American Music Awards vote for best rap/hip-hop artist. He has also acted in several films and was the subject of a 2006 television reality show.
Zimmerman, 30, comes to the ring with some experience. At his trial, testimony revealed that he trained as a boxer in the year before the shooting to lose weight and get in shape.
Boxing promoter Damon Feldman is negotiating the celebrity three-round bout.
Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, in a keynote address to the National Action Network on Wednesday, cautioned against glorifying Zimmerman.
“We must be very careful not to glorify or in any way sidestep the implications of making someone whose only claim to fame was killing an unarmed young man named Trayvon Martin into a cultural celebrity or hero,” said Sharpton.
“He has the right to pursue whatever he wants in life, yet we also have the obligation to be discerning about who we lift and to what level,” Sharpton said.
Martin’s shooting and Zimmerman’s self-defense claim polarized the nation around issues of racial justice, stand your ground laws and gun control.
After Zimmerman’s acquittal, his lawyer said it would be difficult for his client, like defendants in other notorious crimes, to find normal employment.
Zimmerman capitalized on his celebrity in December by auctioning one of his flag paintings on eBay for just over $100,000.
Some of the proceeds from the boxing event would go to an animal rescue charity, Zimmerman told Radar Online, but he declined to name the organization.
In his 2013 trial, Zimmerman was accused of profiling, following and shooting Martin, a guest in a gated neighborhood in central Florida, as the teen was returning from a convenience store. Zimmerman claimed self defense.
The trial put the spotlight on Florida’s stand your ground law, which allows someone in fear of his or her life to use lethal force.
Since his acquittal, Zimmerman has had several brushes with the law. He has twice been stopped for speeding, once in Texas and again in Florida.
In September, Zimmerman was questioned by police after his estranged wife called authorities saying he threatened her with a gun. He was not charged in the incident, which occurred a week after she filed for divorce.
(Editing by David Adams and Gunna Dickson)