Some people think that elite boxers have it made. They fight two to three times a year and get paid tons of money for three nights of boxing for a maximum of 36 minutes per fight. And they get paid whether they win or lose.
Besides those 36 minutes consisting of three minutes of 12 rounds, these fighters train intensively for three months prior to the fight. They follow a strict diet, wake up early in the morning and do punishing exercise routines to get themselves in tip top shape come fight night. And they run the risk of getting beaten up by an opponent who underwent a similar training for the opportunity to beat the living hell out of him. Besides, they would only get elite status if they beat equally illustrious fighters as well.
Once at the top, they can start commanding top dollar each time they climb up the ring. The following guys have earned the most from just one fight, and they are the top 10 highest paid boxers of all time.
1. Oscar de la Hoya – $53 million
He is called “The Golden Boy” after winning an Olympic Games gold medal in 1992 in Barcelona. He was a champion in six different weight classes, winning 10 world titles in the process. He is also a savvy businessman, putting up Golden Boy Promotions in order to take control of his own fights. He has earned $696 million in the process, making him the highest earning boxer of all time. He is also the highest paid, amassing $53 million for his fight against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in 2007. The money consisted of the guaranteed purse plus a percentage of the pay-per-view. He made a killing because the fight still stands as the highest earning pay-per-view boxing event in history. Oh, and he lost the fight on a split decision.
2. Evander Holyfield – $35 million
His second fight with Mike Tyson in 1997 is one of the most memorable fights in boxing history. Evander Holyfield was not intimidated by the persona of Tyson, which he proved when he knocked out the former champion in their first fight. For the second fight, he once again proved his worth, though he surely earned his money this time around. Tyson kept biting Holyfield’s ear, eventually tearing out a piece and spitting it out in full view of the crowd and a television audience from around the world. He won after Tyson was disqualified.
3. Floyd Mayweather Jr. – $32 million
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. calls himself “Money” and he prides himself with his perfect record on top of the ring. He got the biggest guaranteed purse in boxing history when he fought Miguel Cotto for the light middleweight championship in 2012. It was one of the few times that Mayweather got tested by an opponent, as Cotto landed several good punches that bloodied the former. Still, Mayweather dominated and won the fight by unanimous decision.
4. Wladimir Klitschko – $32 million
Wladimir Klitschko is one of the two Klitschko heavyweight champions. While his brother owns the WBC version of the crown, Wladimir has the WBO, IBF, IBO and The Ring heavyweight belts. The only heavyweight title missing from their collection in 2011 was the WBA crown, which was held by David Haye. Both brothers wanted to fight Haye, but Wladimir ended up meeting him in a unification title bout in Germany. He won almost every round on his way to earning a unanimous decision.
5. David Haye – $32 million
He was the only heavyweight champion not named Klitschko. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world had gone up the heavyweight rank to fight the big boys. He did everything to rile up the brothers, even showing up with a shirt showing the Klitschkos with their heads decapitated. Even the critics believed in him. He ended up earning 50 percent of the purse, though whether he deserved it is debatable after he lost in lopsided fashion.
6. Mike Tyson – $30 million
He used to be one of the most feared men in the world, with his perpetual scowl and mean personality. He was guaranteed $30 million for his 1997 fight with Holyfield and his 2002 bout with Lennox Lewis. He lost both times as opponents learned how to deal with him.
7. Lennox Lewis – $30 million
He reversed the trend of British heavyweights losing to American opponents. He had defeated Holyfield in an earlier fight. He then signed on to fight Mike Tyson in 2002. A lot of people hoped for a classic fight, with the pay-per-view sales going over the roof. The fight turned out to be a bore, however, as Lewis dominated Tyson and knocked him out in the eighth round.
8. Manny Pacquiao – $25 million
He has won championships in eight different weight classes. He defeated future Hall-of-Famers along the way, sending some of them into retirement or on a downward spiral. He easily defeated feared boxers, like Marco Antonio Barrera, Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Oscar de la Hoya, without practically losing any round at all. The Philippine boxer nicknamed “Pacman” kept gobbling up opponents and his popularity crossed over to other fields as a result. He was guaranteed $25 million for his 2012 fight against Timothy Bradley and his fourth fight with arch rival Juan Manuel Marquez. He lost a controversial decision to Bradley, before getting knocked out by Marquez.
9. Vitali Klitschko – $15 million
Vitali Klitschko defended the WBC version of the heavyweight title in 2011 against the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Odlanier Solis of Cuba. The fight was held in Germany. All it took was one right hook from Klitschko and Solis went down right in the first round. He hurt his right knee while falling to the canvas that forced the referee to stop the bout.
10. Miguel Cotto – $8 million
Cotto used to be a feared champion. After getting knocked out by Antonio Margarito in a tainted fight, Pacquiao easily beat him in a near-shutout. Cotto climbed his way back and got a shot at Mayweather. Though it again ended up in a lopsided score against Cotto, he performed well enough to earn the respect of experts. He also got his highest payday for that fight.