The success of pay-per-views and the rise of the celebrity boxer means that some boxing fights can now earn hundreds of millions of pounds for a single event.
Revenue from ticket sales have of course been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, but with the chance of spectators on the horizon, there could be the chance to break records with Anthony Joshua vs. Tyson Fury, the return of Manny Pacquiao, or another showbiz tie-in to spike interest from a wider audience.
Over the years there have been some huge events for promoters, venues, fighters and broadcasters. We take a look at the six financially biggest fights in history.
Note: Figures are based on widely-reported fees across multiple sources. Non-professional contests will not be considered.
1. Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao - May 2015
The ‘Fight of the Century’ is the most money-spinning fight to ever take place, at least for now.
The 2015 fight profited off the hopes and expectations of fight fans who had long wanted a match-up between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
While the excitement for the bout was off the charts, the fight itself was something of an anticlimax, with Mayweather winning on points without too much drama, including the announcement of the result.
However such was the anticipation the pair were able to sell 4.6m pay-per-view subscriptions and tickets for the public started at $1,500 for the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
- PPV: £333million
- Gate: £58.7m
- Mayweather’s purse: £223.5m
- Pacquiao’s purse: £122m
- Total: £678m
2. Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor - August 2017
Called ‘The Money Fight’ once it was announced, it is no surprise to see that Mayweather appears again in this list, for his fight with Conor McGregor at the T-Mobile Arena in Paradise, Nevada.
The Irishman moved across from UFC for the occasion, and allowed Mayweather to conclude his professional career with a 50th win, coming at something of a canter.
Mayweather continues to tease a return to the ring, at least for an exhibition, and given the sums he made it is no surprise.
- PPV: £325m
- Gate: £44m
- Mayweather’s purse: £223.5m
- McGregor’s purse: £70m
- Total: £662.5m
3. Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez - September 2013
Mayweather again, this time against one of the current biggest fighters in the world.
In 2013 Canelo was not quite the superstar, nor quite as accomplished as he is today. Mayweather again came away with the points victory, in an event that attracted more than 16,000 fans to the MGM Grand.
- PPV: £120m
- Gate: £20m
- Mayweather’s purse: £65m
- Canelo’s purse: £9.7m
- Total: £214.7m
4. Floyd Mayweather vs. Oscar De La Hoya - May 2007
It will perhaps not shock you to see Mayweather’s name again, given his domination of the sport of boxing and his popularity amongst fans who were willing to pay up to watch him in action.
However in 2007, it was Oscar De La Hoya who was arguably the bigger name, and that was reflected in the Golden Boy’s purse coming up to more than twice as much as Mayweather’s.
While De La Hoya might have take much of the cash, it was Mayweather who claimed the win, and emerged as the pre-eminent star of the lighter weights.
- PPV: £110m
- Gate: £15m
- De la Hoya’s purse: £42m
- Mayweather’s purse: £20m
- Total: £187m
5. Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II - 1997
A rarity: an event on this list without Mayweather. Incredibly, boxing existed before he came on the scene and we can go all the way back to 1997 in order to find the fifth highest grossing fight of all time, held again at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The fight in question is the Evander Holyfied vs. Mike Tyson rematch, and fans might consider they were given an occasion to remember, if not for the right reason.
Tyson was stopped by Holyfied in 1996 to set up a rematch, but it ended in controversy and - more or less - finished Tyson as a serious figure in the sport. The former world heavyweight champion bit on Holyfield’s ear, not once but twice, and was disqualified as a result.
On the PPV front it was much more successful, selling almost two million subscriptions.
- PPV: £81.4m
- Gate: £11.6m
- Holyfield purse: £28.4m
- Tyson purse: £24.3m
- Total: £145.7m
6. Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson - 2002
Tyson hung on to fight Britain’s Lennox Lewis in 2002, with Lewis the undisputed heavyweight champion.
His class told, as he won in round eight.
The victory might have been routine for Lewis in the end, but the earnings were exceptional. 15,000 seats were sold at the Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tennessee, though it couldn’t match Tyson’s rematch against Holyfield.
- PPV: £90m
- Gate: £14.2m
- Lewis: £14.2m
- Tyson: £14.2m
- Total: £132.6m