The Top 5 Most Expensive Boxing Bouts of All Time
It’s hard to believe it’s over two years since the ‘Fight of the Century’ between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao took place in front of a world-record pay per view (PPV) audience.
It’s even harder to believe that in just over a month boxing lovers are about to witness a spectacle even greater than the 2015 fight when Floyd Mayweather puts his perfect record on the line against MMA specialist Conor McGregor. The early signs point to the pair beating the record for the highest PPV audience in history, currently the 4.6 million viewers who tuned in to watch Mayweather vs Pacquiao that brought in over $400 million in revenue.
Fans of both boxing and MMA will be very interested to see whether the McGregor fight will prove to be more entertaining, as the Fight of the Century failed to live up to the extraordinary hype.
One thing is absolutely certain – both the winner and loser in the Mayweather vs McGregor bout will be walking away with some serious coin. At the absolute minimum, Mayweather will be walking way with a nine-figure sum and McGregor’s cut will likely not be far behind. Some media outlets are reporting that Mayweather may end up with a whopping $400 million should the match meet it’s financial targets. This would blow away the record for most earned in a boxing bout.
This brings us to our list – the top five most expensive boxing bouts. There were a number of ways we could have looked at this – most revenue generated by a match, highest PPV audience, most expensive entry-level tickets for spectators, and realistically the list would look fairly similar.
We have gone with the most expensive in terms of the money that the winner has walked away with, and each figure has been adjusted with inflation in mind. In each entry on this list, the first name mentioned is the one who walked away with the most money, while we note their actual winnings without inflation in parenthesis. All figures are in $US dollars.
#5 Mike Tyson vs Evander Holyfield I (1996)
$46.8 million ($30 Million)
The fight that was billed as ‘Finally’ by promoters was a surprising and memorable affair, but not as memorable as the second match (which also features on this list). Similar to the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, this match was first discussed years before it eventually happened, and first scheduled six years prior to the 1996 event, most likely adding to the hype that surrounded it.
On one side was Mike Tyson, the overwhelming favourite in the matchup. On the other was Evander Holyfield who had retired two years earlier due to a heart condition and came into the fight following a comeback and three less than impressive fights that included a knockout loss and two wins against weaker opponents.
Holyfield came out of the blocks flying and landed a number of punches in a display of power more synonymous with Iron Mike. In the second round, Tyson was knocked into somewhat of a daze by Holyfield and has confessed to blacking out and not remembering rounds three to six. This was one of the biggest upsets in the history of boxing, and although Tyson walked away with the bigger purse, it would in turn set up one of the most anticipated (and infamous) rematches of all time.
#4 Evander Holyfield vs Mike Tyson II (1997)
$53.4 million ($35 million)
This is THE fight featuring Mike Tyson that everyone has heard about, and it was Evander Holyfield with the biggest payout on the second occasion that the pair got together. Promoted as ‘The Sound and The Fury’, nobody could have ever predicted that this boxing match would forever be known as ‘The Bite Fight’ due to arguably the most incredible and infamous act to occur in the ring.
Holyfield was winning again, and Tyson decided to take matters into his own hands. While being held in a clinch, Tyson decided to bite a huge chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear. Although the referee made to disqualify Iron Mike, the ringside doctor declared Holyfield was fit to return and incredibly the fight continued. That was until Tyson decided to have a bite at the other ear and he was promptly disqualified.
#3 Oscar De La Hoya vs Floyd Mayweather (2007)
$61.4 million ($52 million)
It’s hard to believe now, but back in 2007 Floyd Mayweather didn’t necessarily walk away with the biggest cut after a fight. Although this proved to be the last time that an opponent was paid more than he was, he was the second name on the card to De La Hoya who was a six-division champ as they fought for the WBC light Middleweight crown.
“The World Awaits” was heavily anticipated due to the impressive records by each fighter at the time. Mayweather was 37-0 with 24 knockout victories, while De La Hoya was 38-4 with a whopping 30 KO’s. The match was incredibly close and eventually won by Mayweather via split decision. Mayweather’s technical ability was on show for all to see as he saw out the twelve rounds.
#2 Floyd Mayweather vs Canelo Alvarez (2013)
$84.1 million ($80 million)
The fight dubbed ‘The One’ featured two fighters who made more of an effot to avoid defeat than knock out their respective opponents. While Mayweather’s record can’t be faulted, his style in the latter stages of his career isn’t likely to win over many new fans. In spite of this, the match was heavily hyped and saw a massive payout for eventual winner Mayweather, again in a points decision, although this time two judges scored in his favour while the third declared a draw.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez proved a fantastic drawcard for this fight, mainly due to his 42-0-1 record at the time that featured 30 knockouts, arguably just ahead of Mayweather’s 44-0 record with 23 knockouts. His performance on the night was not his best, but such is the money associated with boxing in the modern era, it is unlikely he would be too worried in eventually losing the fight.
#1 Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao (2015)
$186 million ($180 million)
The fight to end all fights occurred in 2015 when Mayweather took on Manny Pacquaio, a fight that was billed as ‘The Fight of the Century’ and ‘The Battle for Greatness’. This turned into a genuine battle between good and evil with Floyd Mayweather’s notoriety away from the ring including domestic violence, jail time and defamation suits coming up against a fighter who the world genuinely believed could end Mayweather’s reign and breathe life into boxing once more.
Sadly, the fight failed to live up to the massive hype as Mayweather put in a typically astute technical and defensive performance while Pacquiao later revealed that a shoulder injury caused him to be below his peak in the fight. Mayweather walked away from the match and retired with a perfect 49-0 record, although that will go on the line when he takes on Conor McGregor next month. The Pac-man also walked away form this match with approximately $100 million in winnings, proving that a loss against Mayweather is very much worthwhile.
So there you have it – the top five boxing bouts in terms of money paid to the winner.
Mayweather’s involvement in three out of five shows just how well he self-promotes, and also proves that the public are still hungry for high profile boxing matches, even if they turn into boring 12 round defensive slogs. In just over a month Mayweather will certainly appear in four out of the top five as his match against McGregor will surely become the new number one.
Let’s cross our fingers that McGregor can defy the odds and give us a memorable match against the almost flawless Mayweather, boxing sure does need it.
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