Money, money, money: How the boxing industry is still going strong

Money, as some believe, makes the world go round. While this may or may not be true, money indeed does run the world of professional sports. The athletes of today reel in more cash than ever, and it seems appropriate when considering the revenue that they produce.

When thinking about which athletes have earned the most in 2013, you may be surprised to find who tops the list. LeBron James? Negative. A-Rod? Not even close. Tiger Woods? Almost, but Woods actually finishes third on the Forbes “100 Highest-Paid Athletes of 2013.” With a befitting nickname, the athlete leading the pack was Floyd “Money” Mayweather, the undefeated welterweight boxer who took in $85 million this year without endorsements.

On Sept. 14, Mayweather (44-0) faced Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-0-1) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev. The 36-year-old won the match by majority decision, remaining undefeated at 45-0, handing Alvarez his first career loss. Despite the talent level of both fighters, the monetary records broken outside of the ring were more surprising than the fight itself.

The fight that Showtime titled “The One” was available on pay-per-view at an average price of $70. The event was also sponsored by Golden Boy Promotions and Mayweather Promotions. After tallying the pay-per-view purchases it was estimated that 2.2 million televisions were tuned into the match, adding up to $150 million in revenue and making this fight the highest-grossing pay-per-view fight of all time. The previous record was held by the Mayweather vs. De La Hoya fight, which generated $136 million in 2007.
Of course, these numbers are not inclusive of the people that actually attended the fight on Sept. 14. The sell-out crowd of 16,146 fans appears relatively small in comparison to sporting events with massive attendance rates, such as NCAA Football games, which at times can eclipse 100,000. However, it would cost much less to attend almost any NCAA Football game than it costs to purchase this fight on pay-per-view.

What may seem shocking is that these boxing fans paid a whopping $1,240 on average per ticket. Ringside seats started at approximately $2,000 per ticket, and as the fight grew close they were listed for resale as high as $29,000 per ticket. The total revenue from ticket sales reached $20 million, which was another record breaker in this category. This total excludes the 500 movie theaters (125,000 seats) nationwide that showed the fight for $25 per ticket, with 70% of the revenue flowing to the promoters.

As ground-breaking as these records are, they pale in comparison to Mayweather’s record-breaking earnings from the fight against Alvarez. To put the fight’s purse into perspective, take a look at Lakers’ shooting guard Kobe Bryant’s earnings. Combining his salary and endorsements, Bryant came in sixth on the Forbes “Richest Athletes of 2013,” making about $52 million.

Now, double that number. Mayweather was guaranteed $41.5 million from the fight and after calculating his share of the pay-per-view purchases, he is expected to reach $100 million, which alone is more than any athlete has made this year. The $41.5 million purse breaks his previous record of $32 million.

This fight pushed Mayweather’s career earnings over $350 million for his career. They don’t just call him “Money” for nothing. As the challenger, Alvarez was guaranteed to make $5 million from the fight, but will now make around $12 million in total earnings. Needless to say, “The One” presented by Showtime was the most ground-breaking boxing event in the sport’s history. Records were broken in almost every aspect of the fight’s revenue, due to both the publicity of the fight and the reputations of both boxers.

Many nationwide sports fans are under the impression that boxing is fading away from national attention, when in actuality it is becoming more popular than ever, especially when Mayweather steps into the ring. Boxing is not less popular than other sports necessarily, but instead different in structure. Whereas other professional sports have seasons with scheduled games, boxing has a few highly advertised main events annually. This makes fans’ anticipation rise and causes them to be much more willing to purchase the fights in pay-per-view. These highly anticipated bouts bring a massive amount of national attention and usually sell out extremely fast.

The Mayweather vs. Canelo fight sold out in less than 24 hours after its announcement. Mayweather’s victory over Canelo to maintain his unbeaten record will indeed add to the hype surrounding his next fight. His greatest competition would likely be Manny Pacquiao, who is 54-5-2 with 38 knockouts, and one can only imagine the astronomical monetary numbers that would be made from that fight if it were to ever actually happen.

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