Rodney King vs the police: round two

Victim whose beating in 1991 sparked riots across LA agrees to box renegade Philadelphia officer in charity bout

The last time Rodney King was beaten up by the police, Los Angeles experienced appalling race riots in which 53 people were killed, more than 2,000 injured, and a billion dollars-worth of damage caused by the city's outraged black community.

Seventeen years, a criminal trial and a $3m legal settlement later, King has put himself back in harm's way, agreeing to go toe-to-toe with a notoriously aggressive cop through the colourful medium of celebrity boxing.

America's most famous living victim of police brutality last night stepped into a ring with one Simon Aouad, who was thrown out of Philadelphia's police force because, in his own words, he "couldn't follow the rules".

Their fight, at a hotel near the city's airport, was broadcast across America on pay-per-view and watched by a live audience paying $25 a ticket. It marked the latest in a series of bizarre money-making projects that have allowed King to emerge as an unlikely star of reality television.

Now 43, King recently appeared in the cable TV shows, Sober House and Dr Drew's Celebrity Rehab, undergoing treatment for the alcoholism that led to his original arrest in 1991. He now claims to have been "clean" for 14 months.

Aouad, for his part, decided to fight under the nickname "The Renegade". The 31-year-old achieved fame in 2006 when he was thrown out of the police force for following a "shoot first, ask questions later" policy with regard to an intruder on his property.

During interviews to publicise the bout, the heavily tattoed Aouad has repeatedly referred to King's past, promising: "I'm going to beat you so bad, Rodney, you're going to wish you were back in LA. I broke bones for a living every day."

The comments refer to the famous 1992 incident, in which King was set upon by four baton-wielding cops after he refused to pull over for a highway patrol officer who suspected him of speeding, drink-driving, and possibly being under the influence of drugs.

Video of the arrest, shot by an onlooker and later sold to TV networks, showed King being Tasered as he lay helplessly on the ground, before the four officers spent almost two minutes kicking, punching and beating him with batons. He suffered a fractured facial bone, a broken leg, several lacerations, and heavy bruising.

Public outrage led to the officers being charged with using excessive force. When they were sensationally acquitted – by a jury with no black members – the ensuing race riot lasted for three days, ending only after King appeared on television to say, "People ... can we all get along?"

King was later awarded $3.8m in a civil damages case. He was never charged in relation to the incident, but was later convicted of drink-driving, and spent time in prison for a 1995 hit-and-run incident.

"I know some people will see the irony here," said King, of his decision to fight a cop. "But I would have fought anyone who was worthy. I take this very seriously. Never felt better, physically and in the mind."

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