How Much Professional Boxers Earn
While some pro boxers like Floyd Mayweather won’t even consider fighting without a guarantee for millions of dollars per match, others fight for less than $10,000. What’s the catch? Let’s find out together.
Calculating a Boxer’s Salary
Professional boxer salaries are pretty different from those in other sports. Other professional sports are governed by associations or leagues that set the rules regarding player salaries and rights. Unlike NBA or NFL players, boxers rely on themselves for that, as there are no boxer unions or organizations to take care of these aspects of their careers.
Is this a good or a bad thing for boxers? Well, it depends. Floyd Mayweather probably wouldn’t complain, but less famous fighters are troubled by the absence of a boxing syndicate.
Let’s see how everything started.
The Ali Act
It’s not a secret that professional boxers are the most exploited athletes today, but things were even worse in the past. Before the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act passed in Congress in 2000, boxers endured extremely harsh treatment by their managers and promoters.
With the Ali Act, boxers got a measure of protection from those issues. The act also enabled boxers to negotiate how much they would be paid and, among other things, allowed Mayweather to earn $275 million for just one night of work. Thanks to the Ali Act, Mayweather became the world’s highest-paid boxer and is currently worth around $500 million. However, the most successful boxer of today earns so much only because his promoters think that he is worth big money.
Boxer Champs Can’t Survive on Match Earnings
While famous boxers can earn millions per match, most others are not so lucky. Since there is no boxer union or association, boxers don’t have an established base pay in the US and most other countries.
For example, even though he was a champ in his class, Mario Rodriguez never earned a lot from boxing. That’s partly because his category isn’t very popular, but also because he wasn’t the most popular boxer in it. After his boxing career ended, Rodriguez moved back to Mexico and started working as a hairdresser to make enough for a living.
Rodriguez’s story is not the only one. As a matter of fact, many boxers are underpaid, so they take on other jobs to make ends meet.
What’s more, some boxers are paid to lose from boxers who are considered to be the next superstars. Those boxers, also known as journeymen, fight to lose and therefore don’t earn a lot of money.
A Boxer Salary Can Go Below the National Average
The average pro boxer’s salary is estimated at $35,000 a year, before taxes and other costs. In the eyes of the IRS, boxers are considered self-employed, so they need to pay for Social Security and Medicare. It’s definitely not an extravagant life, and in some cases, makes less than minimum wage.
The reality can be even worse for some boxers. The match between Mayweather and McGregor, also known as “The Money Fight,” was co-hosted with other matches where players were paid less than $10,000 per match. As usual, women boxers are in the worst position: For example, Sydney LeBlanc got only $3,500 to fight. Just to remind for those who didn’t know – for the aforementioned match, Mayweather officially got $100 million, while McGregor got $39 million. The real payoff for both was much higher, at an estimated $275 million and $130 million, respectively.
Boxers vs. Ultimate Fighters
Thanks to the Ali Act, boxers got more independence and control over the money they make. They also got the freedom to get rid of bad managers and promoters. And while the boxers of today have a certain level of independence, things are less favorable for ultimate fighters. Even the most successful ones, like Conor McGregor, are in a worse position compared to boxing champs.
Unlike boxers, UFC fighters are not allowed to have sponsors or endorsement agreements without the UFC’s permission. Ultimate fighters are independent contractors to the UFC, meaning that they rarely choose their own sponsors or matches to fight. It’s extremely easy for the UFC to fire a fighter not playing by the organization’s rules.
These limitations impact UFC fighter earnings, too. For example, Mayweather can choose which matches he wants to participate in and who his sponsor will be. Mayweather, like other boxers, is also free to fight wherever he wants, accept any sponsorships he chooses and negotiate to fight for as much money as he wants. This is why Mayweather earns hundreds of millions for just one fight, while even the UFC’s most famous fighters have much less freedom and less money. In fact, Mayweather earned more money than the entire UFC roster over a seven-year period.
However, things are not too bad for the best ultimate fighters either. For example, last year, McGregor earned $180 million, making him the highest-paid sportsman, leaving behind Messi ($130 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo ($120 million).