Professional boxing is a lucrative sport. In fact, it is arguably the highest paying professional sport in history. Throughout the years, there have been many well-documented rises to prominence. Most boxers begin practicing the martial art out of poverty because the allure of life-changing financial gain is so great.
At the highest level, boxers earn millions of dollars in just a single night. They possess this uncanny ability to draw attention to the magic they create inside the ring. In many ways, boxers also have the ability to transcend the sport and into pop culture.
From Floyd Mayweather to Mike Tyson, history’s most famous boxers are more than just athletes, they are celebrities in their own right. Furthermore, a boxer’s fanbase is extremely passionate and will follow their favorite boxer and everything they do. This creates huge marketing opportunities for big businesses to invest in advertising.
However, some boxers make way more than others. And it takes a combination of hard work and a little bit of luck to become successful. Let’s take a look at some of the highest earners in boxing and what made them so fun to watch.
Want to know who pulled in the big bucks at the height of their profession? Today, Evolve Daily shares 5 of the biggest box-office attractions in boxing history.
1) Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.
Without a doubt, Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. is the highest paid and richest boxer of all time. The multiple-division boxing world champion began his professional career in 1996, after claiming a bronze medal at the Olympics.
When he made his professional debut, all eyes were instantly on him as the next great American prizefighter.
However, Mayweather did more than just beat his opponents. He did so with an unmistakable flair both in and out of the ring. In 2007, when Mayweather ditched the “Pretty Boy” persona and created the “Money” persona, following his victory over Oscar De La Hoya, he became the official Pay-Per-View king.
Every fight from then on brought huge financial gain for Mayweather. The most Mayweather has ever made was when he fought Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao in 2015. His purse was $100 million guaranteed. Including windfall from PPV earnings, Mayweather reportedly made in excess of over $200 million for a single night of work.
2) Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao
Filipino boxing superstar and ring icon Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is boxing’s only eight-division world champion in history. Beginning his career at flyweight, at the age of 16, Pacquiao started off as a scrawny kid who tried to fight his way out of extreme poverty by performing in local boxing circuits in the Philippines.
When Pacquiao made his United States debut in 2001 against Lehlo Ledwaba, it was the first time the American audience was seeing his unique fighting style. And they were totally blown away. Pacquiao possessed incredible speed, combined with fierce knockout power and relentlessness, he fought his way up the ranks, winning world titles all the way up to super welterweight.
In 2008, Pacquiao beat Oscar De La Hoya, forcing “The Golden Boy” to quit on his stool in the 9th round to earn the TKO victory. After the De La Hoya bout, Pacquiao immediately started to cash in on record paydays. He would earn an average of $20 million every fight.
The most money Pacquiao ever made was against Floyd Mayweather in 2015. Although he lost via unanimous decision, Pacquiao took home a guaranteed purse of $100 million, with PPV upside. When it was all said and done, Pacquiao reportedly earned close to $200 million in a single evening.
3) “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya
The original “Box Office King”, Oscar De La Hoya was a Mexican-American boxer famous not only for his impressive skill atop the boxing ring but also for his movie-star good looks and personality.
Boxing is arguably the most popular sport in Mexico, and De La Hoya always paid homage to his roots every time he fought. This turned out to be a totally wise decision as Mexican boxing fans are among the wildest and most passionate advocates of the sport.
With exceptional skills, a penchant for showmanship, and a keen understanding of the business side of boxing promotion, De La Hoya made massive paydays throughout his exceptional career.
Out of 45 professional bouts, De La Hoya won 39 of them and became one of the richest prizefighters in history with a net worth of over $200 million. Today, he has retired from the sport but remains in the fight game as a promoter, being the charismatic owner of Golden Boy Promotions.
4) Lennox Lewis
On the other side of the pond, English professional boxer Lennox Lewis left an indelible mark on the history of the sport, with his confident demeanor and exceptional pugilistic skills. Competing as a professional between 1989 and 2003, Lewis is a 2-time lineal heavyweight champion and 3-time heavyweight champion of the world.
As an amateur fighter, he represented Canada in the 1988 Olympics, claiming a gold medal in the super heavyweight division with his triumph over the United States’ Riddick Bowe. As a professional, Lewis won 41 out of 44 fights and was an icon in the 90’s.
His super fight against “Iron” Mike Tyson in June of 2002 raked in over $112 million gross, which undoubtedly earned him an incredible financial windfall. Aside from being a professional boxer, Lewis also used his fame to break into movie stardom and worldwide fame. His net worth is over $140 million.
5) “Big” George Foreman
It’s a shame that “Big” George Foreman wasn’t born in the modern era of boxing, when boxers made unbelievable fortunes from their fighting escapades. Foreman competed professionally from 1969 to 1997. As an amateur, Foreman bagged a gold medal in the heavyweight division when he represented the United States at the 1968 Summer Olympics.
Back in a time when there was no PPV, Foreman was an absolute superstar. People from all over the world came to see him fight and see some spectacular knockouts. If he fought in today’s modern era of the sport, he would no doubt be one of boxing’s biggest attractions.
Out of 81 professional fights, Foreman won 76 of them including a whopping 68 knockouts. He was known for his very heavy hands and unbridled knockout power. The first time Foreman ever lost was in the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” in Kinshasa, where he was knocked out in eight rounds by the great Muhammad Ali.
He retired in 1977, leaving boxing momentarily and became a Christian minister, also perhaps more famously becoming known as the originator of the “George Foreman Grill”. Today, Foreman is a boxing analyst, broadcaster, actor, and writer — above all an entrepreneur worth over $250 million. Needless to say, Big George used his boxing fame wisely and is now set for life financially.