The sweet science of boxing has long been the king of combat sports. For virtually all of the 20th century, the best boxers were viewed as the toughest and most comprehensive fighters, period. The rise in popularity of other combat sports like MMA and kickboxing has forced boxing to share the spotlight, but that doesn’t mean that boxing is going anywhere anytime soon. The oldest of the modern combat sports – besides wrestling – modern boxing began to take shape in Great Britain during the 19th century. The sport’s popularity peaked across the pond in the United States midway through the 20th century, with fights such as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ becoming global cultural events that are still remembered 40 years later.
Besides the obvious differences in rules and regulations, the most striking variation between boxing and other combat sports is the pay. The boxers who compete in the elite-tier and who have become high profile brands in their own right make insane amounts of money, especially when compared to their peers in MMA and kickboxing. The birth of pay-per-view in the 1980s created a huge cash cow for the sport, making the biggest promoters and the biggest fighters very rich men. Although the UFC is, at this point in time, widely considered to be the most popular combat sports organization in the world, the fighter pay doesn’t always reflect that. The base pay for a single fight is $8,000, which is what most of the fighters on the undercard receive. Keep in mind that most of these people only fight a few times per year. Even the huge stars of MMA, the Georges St-Pierre’s and Anderson Silva’s, never receive more than $1 million for a fight (although that figure doesn’t take into account individual agreements such as endorsements). This is in stark contrast to boxing, where the big stars such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. take in millions and millions each fight. Boxing evolved from ‘prizefighting’, which is a term that remains relevant seeing as how the stakes – financially speaking – are so, so high.
Still, money comes and money goes. Mike Tyson made ridiculous amounts of money during his prime, but then turned around and blew it on tigers and other extravagant but amusing purchases. Holding on to money after the lights go out is almost as impressive as winning it in the ring. This list will examine the boxers with the highest net worth, the men who have been able to capitalize on their careers and maintain, or in some cases surpass, their fight earnings.
10. Marvelous Marvin Hagler – Net Worth: $45 Million
Marvelous Marvin Hagler was a middleweight boxer who was so annoyed that the announcers to his fights kept forgetting his nickname, ‘Marvelous’, that he legally changed his name so they couldn’t. That kind of arrogance is normally grounds for ruthless mockery, but Hagler was an animal in the ring and could back up any accusation of cockiness with stellar performances. He was the Undisputed World Middleweight Champion for over 7 years, from 1980 to 1987, the second longest reign in history. Hagler was defeated for his championship by Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987, which was also his final match in boxing. He retired to a life in Italy and the occasional movie role, and today is still worth approximately $45 million.
9. Roy Jones Jr. – Net Worth: $45 Million
Another $45 million man, Roy Jones Jr. is considered by most pundits to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. He began his career as a light middleweight, but would go on to hold titles in the middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight division. He was also the first middleweight to win a heavyweight title in over 106 years. Jones Jr. has a total boxing record of 57 wins and 8 losses, and at the age of 45 continues to compete and win championships, making him one of the oldest active fighters and champions in all of combat sports. His lengthy boxing career – and a brief stint as a rapper – has allowed him to accumulate a very comfortable net worth of $45 million.
8. Muhammad Ali – Net Worth: $50 Million
One of the most iconic pictures of the 20th century is the image of Muhammad Ali standing over a defeated Sonny Liston with an expression of passion, arrogance, and anger written over his face. Ali (born Cassius Clay), if he isn’t the best heavyweight of all time, is probably the most famous boxer to step into the ring. His fame transcended the sport and allowed him to become a cultural icon in his own right. His trash talking both in and outside the ring was legendary, and his fights became cultural events. He ended his career with a record of 56 wins and 5 losses. Sadly, in 1984 he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which he has now been battling for over 30 years. Still, the proceeds from his career have at least allowed him to live comfortably, as he has a net worth of around $50 million.
7. Lennox Lewis – $60 Million
Lennox ‘The Lion’ Lewis was one of the most feared heavyweight boxers in his time. After winning an Olympic gold medal in amateur boxing for Canada during the 1988 Olympics, he turned professional at the age of 24 in 1989 and began a 25-fight winning streak that saw him become the WBC Heavyweight Champion before losing for the first time in 1994. After a career spent fighting and defeating some of the best of all time – like Mike Tyson, Evander Hollyfield, and Vitali Klitschko – he retired in 2004 with a total record of 41 wins, 2 losses, and 1 draw.
6. Vitali Klitschko – Net Worth: $65 Million
The life of Vitali ‘Dr. Ironfist’ Klitschko doesn’t resemble most other boxers, and certainly not the ones of his calibre. He is a world champion, holds a PhD, is an avid chess player, and now a Ukranian politician who is poised to become a leading figure in the country once the ongoing Euromaidan revolution in his native country comes to a close. He holds a professional boxing record of 45 wins and 2 losses, and recently retired in December 2013 as the WBC Heavyweight champion to focus on the ongoing situation in Ukraine full-time.
5. Manny Pacquiao – Net Worth: $100 Million
Manny Pacquiao was one of the biggest draws in boxing of the last decade. The $100 million Filipino fighter’s brawls with Oscar De La Hoya and Érik Morales were huge events that captivated boxing fans across the world. He continues to fight, although has lost 2 of his last 3 fights, for a total record of 55 wins, 5 losses and 2 draws. In 2010 he was elected to the House of Representatives as a congressman in his native Philippines. He is scheduled to face American Tim Bradley in April to defend his WBO Welterweight title.
4. Sugar Ray Leonard – Net Worth: $120 Million
One of, if not the most, dominant boxer of the 1980s, Sugar Ray Leonard (born Ray Charles Leonard) was a force of nature during his career. He ended his career with 36 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw, although 2 of those losses were from his last 2 fights. In his prime, he was nigh unstoppable. His wars against Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Roberto Durán are memorable moments in boxing history. The former WBC Welterweight & WBC Light Middleweight champion retired for good in 1997 with a comfortable $120 million.
3. Floyd Mayweather Jr. – Net Worth: $170 Million
Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather is the most successful and dominant active boxer in the world today. With a perfect record of 45 wins and 0 losses, and wins over accomplished champions such as Oscar De La Hoya and Arturo Gatti, we are currently living in the Mayweather era of boxing history. He is a massive pay-per-view draw, with 5 of his fights achieving the elusive 1 million buy mark, and 2 of his fights exceeding 2 million buys. Stints with the WWE and Dancing with the Stars have made him a mainstream media figure, driving up his price tag even further. He’s worth approximately $170 million, and will be worth even more after his upcoming fight with Marcos Maidana.
2. Oscar De La Hoya – Net Worth: $200 Million
Oscar De La Hoya personally made more money out of pay-per-view fights than any other boxer in history, and his fights have generated approximately $696 million and counting. The American boxer has won 10 world titles across various weight classes, and the promotional company he founded, Golden Boy Promotions, is one of the most successful promotional companies in all of combat sports. With a professional record of 39 wins and 6 losses, De La Hoya officially retired in 2012 to focus on his business full time.
1. George Foreman – Net Worth: $250 Million
The richest boxer on this list didn’t make his fortune in the ring; he made it in the kitchen. Despite being one of the most important heavyweight boxers of all time, a former champion who clashed with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, George Foreman made most of his fortune through selling his eponymous grill. His total net worth is approximately $250 million, and it’s rumoured he has made close to $200 million of that through grill sales. Out of all the hundreds of millions of dollars to go around in the boxing world, the richest man of them all made his fortune outside of it selling a grill that makes delicious, low-fat chicken.