The attraction of significant sporting events and a rise in Pay Per View boxing event screening means that matchups can now earn hundreds of millions for a single fight.
The coronavirus pandemic has hurt revenue from ticket sales. Still, the return of spectators to Tottenham Hotspur stadium for the Anthony Joshua vs. Oleksandr Usyk fight has given hope that regular events will return to test the records.
Over the years, we have witnessed huge events lined the pockets of the fighters, their promoters, and the non-UK casinos like those found here that host the bouts.
The following article is a list of the six biggest money-making boxing matches in history.
Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao – 2015
The ‘fight of the century’ pitted boxing’s greatest showman of the time, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, against the “Pac-Man” Manny Pacquiao.
The 2015 fight brought arguably the two best pound-for-pound fighters together in a long-awaited matchup that every boxing enthusiast wanted to see. The fight happened after two years of hostile negotiations, with Mayweather insisting his opponent take a drug test close to the battle.
The actual event turned out to be somewhat of an anti-climax, with Mayweather’s evasive, defensive style taking the fight to the distance and winning over 17 of the 19 judges. Pacquiao said: “I thought I won the fight. He’s moving around. It’s not easy to throw punches when he’s moving around so much. It’s not about size, as size doesn’t matter. I fought bigger. I thought I caught him many more times than he caught me.”
PPV: £333 million
Mayweather purse: £223.5m
Pacquiao purse: £122m
Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor – 2017
The second-largest money-spinning event was a boxing v UFC hybrid as brash Irishman Conor McGregor crossed over to fight Mayweather, with “Pretty Boy” Floyd proving once more that he can live up to his self-proclaimed “money” tag.
The fight went down at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada, and came on the back of a hot streak for McGregor in the Octagon. Mayweather had been in retirement but returned for what would be his 50th unbeaten success.
McGregor averaged over 1 million PPV buys for his UFC fights, but the Mayweather encounter dwarfed them with 4.3 million tickets for Showtime US and 1 million at the UK’s Sky Box Office.
Mayweather purse: £223.5m
McGregor purse: £70m
Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez – 2013
Surprise, surprise. It’s that man Mayweather again with his 2013 matchup against Mexican Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Alvarez had not fought any big-name stars until Floyd, but he lasted the distance in a bruising 12 rounds for the Mexican, which saw him lose his WBC and Ring light middleweight titles.
CompuBox stats showed Mayweather’s dominance in the fight. He landed 232 of 505 punches (46%) while Álvarez connected on 117 of 526 thrown (22%).
PPV: £120 million
Mayweather purse: £65m
Pacquiao purse: £9.7m
Floyd Mayweather vs. Oscar De La Hoya – 2007
Yet another big draw fight for Mayweather with the hotly-anticipated bout between two of the biggest middleweight stars of the time – “Pretty Boy” vs. “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya.
De La Hoya was getting older after racking up a 31-0 win record, but he entered the Mayweather fight with four losses and would leave with another after another majority decision.
Oscar De La Hoya was still the more prominent name at the time, and many thought he would be too much for Floyd, which was evident in his purse being twice the size.
Mayweather continues to look at other money-spinning fights in his semi-retirement. There is now talk of a rematch between the pair.
PPV: £110 million
De La Hoya purse: £42m
Mayweather purse: £20m
Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II – 1997
A full ten years earlier brings us to two of the biggest heavyweights on the planet in Holyfield and Tyson.
The fact that this is the next fight on the list highlights the draw that Floyd Mayweather has. Not the biggest or the most brutal hitting boxer, but he pulls in crowds from all corners of boxing for his skillful mastery of his opponents.
Holyfield stopped Tyson in 1996 to set up a rematch, but it ended in controversy and further damaged Tyson’s reputation in the boxing world. The former world heavyweight champion bit off a chunk of Holyfield’s ear and got disqualified in a match that shocked spectators and non-boxing fans alike.
Despite the gruesome finale, the match scored at the box office with almost two million PPV subscribers. It should be noted that cable tv was less of a dominant fixture in homes at the time, while the ten-year gap also means that Mayweather benefited from the inflationary effects on the US dollar’s value.
PPV: £81.4 million
Holyfield purse: £28.4m
Tyson purse: £24.3m
Lennox Lewis v Mike Tyson – 2002
Mike Tyson was the Pay Per View Boxing box office sensation of the early 1990s, and five years after the Holyfield rematch, he was able to carve out one last big-time match against Lennox Lewis.
Lewis had cemented himself as the top heavyweight of the day, and his class and fitness showed as he knocked out Tyson in round 8. After the fight, George Foreman said: “He [Lewis] is, no doubt, the best heavyweight of all time. What he’s done puts him on top of the heap.”
Due to Tyson’s licensing problems, the fight finally went ahead in Tennessee with 15,000 packing into the Pyramid Arena in Memphis.
PPV: £90 million
Lewis purse: £14.2m
Tyson purse: £14.2m