Just the sheer hype that surrounded the Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao fight should inform us that boxing is amongst the most lucrative sports in the world.Championship matches generate revenues to the tune of billions of dollars and the boxers too take home fat cheques in the wake of these highly publicised matches. Mayweather, in the run-up to the Welterweight Championship match against Pacquiao had already made a whopping 105 million dollars, putting over the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiger Woods in annual earnings.Let us take a look at ten of the highest paid boxers in history.
#1 Floyd Mayweather Jr. (USD 179 million)
It had been over four decades since the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’, a slugfest that had featured Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, in what was called the ‘Fight of the Century’. Among the other memorable fights in the 20th century were the contests between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield among others. However, the 21st century was still awaiting a contest worthy of the sobriquet ‘Fight of the Century’.
The Floyd Mayweather Jr.– Manny Pacquiao match put an end to that weight. Pacquiao was a two-time welterweight champion heading into the match while Mayweather Jr. was yet to lose even a single match in his already illustrious career. Mayweather Jr. had, in fact won the Featherweight, Welterweight, Middleweight championships on multiple occasions heading into the match.
In what was probably one of the most widely-watched sporting contests in recent times, the revenue from the encounter was of astronomic proportions. Conservative estimates pegged the overall revenue from the fight at 500 million (USD).
In a riveting match, Mayweather Jr. prevailed over Pacquiao (Mayweather scored 116 points to Pacquiao’s 112) to earn a staggering 179 million USD from the fight. In 2012, Mayweather Jr. earned the biggest guaranteed purse when he fought Miguel Cotto for the Middleweight championship.
#2 Manny Pacquiao (USD 120 million)
Named the ‘Fighter of the decade’ for the years 2000-10 by the Boxing Writers Association of America, Manny Pacquiao of Philippines is one of the legends of boxing.
Manny Pacquiao has to his name as many as seven World titles, including two Welterweight Championships. Of the 65 bouts that he has been in, Pacquiao has won 57 of them, of which 38 were earned by knock-out.
Renowned for his aggressive style, Pacquiao came into the fight against Mayweather Jr. as the underdog. Pacquiao put up a strong fight but came undone against the more athletic Mayweather Jr., who won the fight 116-112.
However, Pacquiao earned a whopping 120 million (USD) from the fight making him the second highest paid boxer ever. In 2012, Pacquiao had been paid USD 25 million for his fight against Juan Manuel Marquez.
#3 Oscar de la Hoya (USD 53 million)
‘Golden Boy’, as he became known as, Oscar de la Hoya holds the distinction of having defeated 17 World Champions in six different weight classes.
La Hoya won nine World Championship titles across six weight categories, including winning the Light Middleweight Championship twice. He earned an enviable sum of 53 million USD for his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007 for the Super Welterweight championship.
Oscar de la Hoya also won the Gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in boxing, upetting German boxer Marco Rudolph in the final.
#4 Evander Holyfield (USD 35 million)
One of the greatest boxers in the history of the sport, Evander Holyfield was a former ‘Undisputed World Champion’ in the cruiserweight and heavyweight categories.
In a remarkable career that lasted over 15 years, Holyfield went on to win World Heavyweight Championship title four times, and remains the only boxer to have done so.
Holyfield’s first tryst with fame came at the 1984 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles when he won the bronze in the Light Heavyweight category. And in 1986, he defeated Dwight Muhammad Qawi for his maiden WBC Cruiserweight title. In ’88, he shifted to the heavyweight category and won all four (WBO, WBC, Lineal and The Ring) championships in 1990.
For his epic fight against Mike Tyson in 1997, Holyfield earned USD 35 million. Heading into the match with a superior record against Tyson, Holyfield was considered the favourite to win. However, the match was marred by the unsavoury incident of Tyson biting off Holyfield’s ear and spitting it out. Tyson was eventually disqualified from the match and the title went to Holyfield.
#5 Wladimir Klitschko (USD 32 million)
The reigning Heavyweight Champion of the World, Wladimir Klitschko holds the WBO, IBF, IBO and The Ring heavyweight championships.
In 2014, Klitschko made a whopping USD 28 million and was behind only Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao in annual earnings for boxers that year. However, his most lucrative fight was against David USD 32 million.Haye, when the two pugilists split the purse 50 percent. It was double delight for Klitschko, who not only beat Haye in a widely anticipated contest, but also laughed all the way to the bank with
#6 David Haye (USD 32 million)
David Haye is probably the only legitimate threat to the domination of the Klitschko brothers in the Heavyweight category. Wladimir, along with older brother Vitali Klitschko, have dominated the Heavyweight Championships for over a decade and Haye has been their only true challenger.
Haye, who began as a cruiserweight soon graduated to the heavyweight category and in 2009, he defeated Nikolay Valuev to be crowned the WBA Heavyweigt champion. In 2010, he challenged the Klitschko brothers, going to the extent of wearing shirts with their decapitated heads on them.
In 2011, he went up against Wladimir Klitschko for the unified WBO, WBA, IBF and The Ring Heavyweight Championship. Klitschko won the match by unanimous decision. However, Haye made USD 32 million from the fight.
#7 Mike Tyson (USD 30 million)
Probably the most controversial boxer ever, Mike Tyson, may believe was also among the most naturally talented pugilists of his generation. Both his career and his life outside the ring were riddled by controversies, which prevented Tyson from adding more laurels to his name.
Given that Tyson won 44 bouts by Knock-out, it isn’t too hard to understand the awe that he inspired in the patrons of the sport. In 1986, he became the youngest Heavyweight Champion of the World, a title he earned after defeating James Smith and Tony Tucker.
He then went on to become the lineal Heavyweight Champion, knocking out Michael Spinks in 91 seconds. At the height of his prowess in 1992, he was imprisoned for rape and served a three year sentence. Returning to the ring after his prison sentence, Tyson lost the WBA Heavyweight Championship match to Evander Holyfield. However, the lowest point in his professional career arrived in the rematch in 1997, when he bit Evander Holyfield’s ear off and was subsequently disqualified from the match.
He was, however, paid handsomely for the bout, a whopping USD 30 million. He was paid the same amount for his 2002 fight against Lennox Lewis.
#8 Lennox Leiws (USD 30 million)
Regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time, Lennox Claudius Lewis came into the limelight for the first time when he won the Gold medal at Seoul in the 1988 Sumemr Olympics, representing Canada. He was a citizen of both Canada and Great Britain.
In 1992, he was crowned the WBC Heavyweight Champion and in 1997, reclaimed the WBC title, after he defeated Oliver McCall.
He became the undisputed champion after defeating Evander Holyfield in 1999 and in 2002, he was paid USD 30 million for his fight against Mike Tyson, a contest which ended up being a massive disappointment, with Lewis making mincemeat of Tyson and eventually knocking out his opponent in the eighth round.
#9 Vitali Klitschko (USD 15 million)
The Ukrainian, who is currently serving as the Mayor of the country’s capital city, Kiev, was one of the most feared and respected Heavyweight Champions . Along with his younger brother, Wladimir, Vitali dominated the heavyweight circuit for over a decade.
Vitali was the eighth longest serving Heavyweight Champion of the world and he earned his first Heavyweight Championship title in 1996, when he beat Herbie Hide for the WBO crown.
In 2011, pushing 40, Klitschko returned to the ring for the WBC Heavyweight Championship fight against Olympic Gold Medallist Odlanier Solis of Cuba. In typical fashion, Vitali landed a solid right hook to knock his opponent out in the very first round. Vitali earned USD 15 million from the fight.
#10 Miguel Cotto (USD 8 million)
One of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s most determined opponents, Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico is a Middleweight Champion.
Cotto has to his name six World Championship titles, of which three have been earned in the Welterweight category. On May 5, 2012, he challenged Floyd Mayweather Jr. for the Light Middleweight championship.
Although Mayweather Jr. won the bout by unanimous decision, Cotto earned the admiration of all the spectators. It was also his most lucrative fight as he took home USD 8 million from the match.