Boxing has been one of the most popular sports on the pay-per-view circuit for years. People are willing to pay $30 to $60 for access to a PPV event that features several fights, including one main event between two prominent boxers going after each other, usually with someone’s title on the line.
Over the years, people have flocked to matches featuring fighters from different weight classes. People in the 1980s and 1990s were infatuated with PPV events featuring dominant heavyweights like Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and even George Foreman in some of his comeback bouts.
The welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight classes have become especially popular in recent years, as boxers like Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao, Tim Bradley, Miguel Cotto and Saul Alvarez have taken the boxing world by storm.
Whether it’s lightweights like Adrien Broner, heavyweights like Wladimir Klitschko or even female boxers like Christina Hammer, people are willing to pay loads of money to watch their favourite fighters duke it out on pay-per-view. In fact, the sales totals are so high that some boxers are getting massive payouts for competing in these bouts. Promoters like Top Rank and Golden Boy as well as television networks like HBO and Showtime are willing to pay the big bucks for the rights to air these matches and capitalize on the huge revenues that they generate.
This list consists of the ten highest-grossing pay-per-view boxing matches in history. Many of these fights have been sold to more than a million customers including private homes, restaurants and other dining establishments and even movie theaters. The audiences for these fights have been enormous worldwide and provide strong evidence supporting the success of the sport.
It should be noted that while these numbers are substantial, there is one potential fight that could top them all if it ever happens. If Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao were to ever meet in the ring, the bout would more than likely gross $250 million in PPV receipts, according to Forbes Magazine. Whether or not this will ever happen is unknown, but it’s something to think about for the future.
10. Felix Trinidad vs. Oscar De La Hoya – 9/18/1999 – $64 Million
In the first fight on this list, Felix Trinidad defeated Oscar De La Hoya through a majority decision in Las Vegas. When it hit $64 million in 1999, the fight set a record for having the highest PPV draw among non-heavyweight fights with around 1.4 million customers buying access to the match. While this welterweight bout was popular, the fighters were called for a rematch, due to the close nature of the event and the belief from some that the Golden Boy should have won. However, a rematch never came about. Had it happened, it would have been estimated to bring in close to $85 million in PPV sales.
9. Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley – 5/7/2011 – $75 Million
After a few unsuccessful attempts to try and set up the bout, Manny Pacquiao and Sugar Shane Mosley finally competed with each other in Las Vegas in 2011. This bout had a $75 million draw on PPV. Pacquiao won in a unanimous decision and got $20 million while Mosley got $3.95 million. Mosley was still guaranteed $5 million based on his Top Rank contract at the time. Even the people in the undercard were paid handsomely thanks to the PPV sales adding to the total purse. In a super bantamweight championship bout that happened right before the main event, Jorge Arce got $125,000 after knocking out Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., who earned $165,000 thanks to his contract.
8. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield – 11/9/1996 – $77.9 Million
The world’s top two heavyweights of 1996 took on one another at the Las Vegas MGM Grand as Mike Tyson fought Evander Holyfield. Holyfield won the bout by TKO in the eleventh round. This made the Real Deal the first boxer since Muhammad Ali to win a heavyweight title on three separate occasions. This bout led to a $77.9 million PPV take, as there were 1.59 million buys for the event. It would end up being less than a year before the two would lock up again, this time with a higher PPV total and a highly controversial result.
7. Evander Holyfield vs. George Foreman – 4/19/1991 – $80 Million
Evander Holyfield‘s fight with George Foreman in Atlantic City was noteworthy in boxing PPV history as it was the first event on TVKO, a network that eventually became HBO Pay-Per-View. The $80 million in revenue that came from PPV sales more than covered the $12.5 million that Foreman was guaranteed. This bout was the highest-grossing pay-per-view boxing event for the next few years, thanks to 1.45 million home buys. Holyfield ended up winning in a unanimous decision, but Big George was lauded for being able to stay with Holyfield and be competitive throughout the entire bout, even at 42 years in age.
6. Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto – 5/5/2012 – $94 Million
Although there was a strong desire to see Floyd Mayweather take on Manny Pacquiao in a light-middleweight bout, efforts were unsuccessful due to differing views on where the bout should be held and how the money should be split. Still, Mayweather’s 2012 victory by unanimous decision against Miguel Cotto led to a total of 1.5 million PPV buys with a total PPV revenue of $94 million. Mayweather earned $45 million in accordance with the terms of his massive contract with Showtime, while Cotto got $8 million. The big undercard bout was also profitable, as Saul Alvarez won $2 million for beating Shane Mosley. Mosley got $750,000 for his participation in the bout.
5. Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley – 8/19/1995 – $96 Million
This fight was noteworthy for being Mike Tyson‘s first fight back after being gone for four years while serving a prison sentence for rape. 1.52 million homes bought the PPV package. The biggest loser in the event was rising star Peter McNeeley. Although he had a 36-1 record heading into the fight, McNeeley was knocked down twice by Iron Mike in only 89 seconds and his corner pulled him out before the end of the first round. Still, McNeeley did not go home empty-handed as he got a total amount of $540,000 for entering the fight. Still, McNeeley was never able to go too far in his career after losing to Tyson so quickly.
4. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield – 6/28/1997 – $100.2 Million
In just a few months after their first fight with one another, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield went back to the MGM Grand for a rematch. This resulted in a larger purse, as Tyson got $30 million while Holyfield got $33 million. Also, 1.9 million PPV buys were sold, making a total of $100.2 million. However, the bout ended up being one of the most controversial in boxing history, as Tyson was disqualified in the third round for biting Holyfield’s ear. Tyson was fined $3 million for his actions in the ring and also lost his license to compete in the state of Nevada.
3. Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson – 6/8/2002 – $112 Million
Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson had to face each other at the Pyramid in Memphis because many other places refused to hold the fight. The city of Memphis paid $12 million to host the Lewis-Tyson Is On bout at the Pyramid. There were 1.95 million buys for the event and it grossed around $112 million in PPV sales. This was ideal for those who could not come to Memphis to pay the $2,400 cost for the most expensive ticket. Lewis won by knockout in the eighth round. This added insult to injury for Tyson, as he was fined $335,000 after starting a brawl during a press conference for the event.
2. Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. – 5/5/2007 – $136 Million
In 2007, the light middleweight torch was passed as Oscar De Lay Hoya lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. through a split decision. It cost $55 to buy the PPV for the event which shattered the old record with $136 million in revenues. De La Hoya got $52 million for the fight while Mayweather got only $25 million. The planned rematch in September 2008 was expected to raise $150 million, but both boxers retired before then. Still, Mayweather did return to boxing a year after announcing his retirement.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Saul Alvarez – 9/13/2013 – $150 Million
The recent bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul Alvarez was heralded as The One, an event destined to determine who the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world really is. Mayweather won the bout in a split decision, although there was a debate over why the scorecards were as close as they were. The $150 million taken from PPV sales was supported by a little more than two million buys. Also, Mayweather had a take of $41.5 million prior to bonuses from PPV sales. This was part of a contract Mayweather had with Showtime in which he would get minimum $200 million for a six-fight deal. The total of his contract is certainly going to be higher than this thanks to the PPV sales of his events being as high as they are.