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Some 2000 years ago, the Roman public would gather in mass crowds at Italy’s world famous Colosseum in Rome, enjoying jam packed days of single-combat by which men and women would fight to the death in gruesome shows of strength and courage. The fighters were usually prisoners of war, slaves or criminals forced to fight in the name of entertainment for the general public. Fast forward to the present day and combat sports remain some of the most popular forms of entertainment available out there, amassing huge followings across the globe with sports such as MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and Boxing housing some of the most well known sports stars in the world, including the likes of Tyson Fury, Connor Mcgregor, Floyd Mayweather and Mike Tyson. When there is such widespread interest in individuals fighting each other, the opportunity for commercial gain is vast and promotion companies around the world certainly know how to take advantage of that! We take a look at five of the highest grossing fights in history in the boxing world, with one man dominating the earnings chart!
On the 8th June 2002, fierce rivals Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis battled it out for the IBF and WBC titles in what saw the latter retain his titles after a brutal 8th round knockout hosted at The Pyramid, Memphis, USA. Although the legendary Mike Tyson was arguably past his best, the fight remains the highest ever grossing heavyweight fight of all time, raking in $112 million in pay-per-view subscriptions, pipping the Tyson vs Holyfield II 1997 bout which maxed out at just over $100 million in revenue.
Nicknamed ‘Money’, it will be no surprise to boxing fans that Floyd Mayweather appears in the top 5 highest grossing fights of all time (spoiler alert… it’s not the last time either). This bout between Mayweather & De La Hoya was promoted under the name ‘The World Awaits’ and demanded huge attention worldwide as De La Hoya was a six-weight world champion & Mayweather an undefeated four-division champion. In what proved to be one of Mayweather’s toughest career fights, the Las Vegas crowd at the MGM Grand were treated to a 12 round split decision victory for team ‘Money’. It was also the first time in history pay-per-view subscriptions topped 2 million, eventually reaching the TV’s of 2,480,000 viewers worldwide.
That man again. At 36 years old, Mayweather stepped in the ring with a Mexican boxing sensation Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who was just 23 years old when he took on arguably the greatest pound for pound fighter ever. Despite such a tender age in the boxing world, Alvarez had already racked up 43 fights prior to taking on Mayweather, recording 42 victories and 1 draw prior to the event. However, it would prove a step to far the Mexican. The MGM Grand was once again the venue where Mayweather would produce one of his best and most dominant performances of his career, offering a boxing lesson to Canelo who admitted in the post fight press conference that he couldn’t land anything significant on Mayweather despite his best efforts. The loss was the first on Canelos card and it remained his only one for a further 8 years, until he was finally defeated again by Dmitry Bivol in May, 2022.
Umm and again… By this time Floyd Mayweather was an eleven time, five-division world champion who still boasted an undefeated record of 49 wins and 0 losses. Meanwhile, Connor Mcgregor was the current UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) lightweight champion. The cross-code fight was billed as ‘The biggest fight in combat sports history’ and amassed huge interest across the globe thanks in large part to the entertainment provided by Mcgregor in the pre-fight build up. In one such promotion event, Mcgregor jested with Mayweather for ‘having a school bag when he cant even read’ and proceeded to mock the undefeated champions ‘bald head’. The fight would take place in the T mobile arena, Nevada and was scheduled for 12 rounds, although the fight ended in the 10th by TKO when Mayweather stopped Mcgregor after the referee deemed that the Irish star was no longer able to defend himself. Both fighters would walk away with 9 digit pay cheques for their troubles.
‘Money’ vs ‘Pacman’ was dubbed the ‘fight of the century’ and took place at the MGM Grand, Las Vegas on the 2nd May 2015. The battle of the two most decorated boxers of this generation sold an incredible 4.6 million pay-per-view subscriptions raking in an incredible $410 million. The fight was so hotly anticipated that people were even buying tickets to pack out the arena for the pre-fight weigh in. The fight itself lasted 12 gruelling rounds and ended in a unanimous decision in favour of Floyd Mayweather, who to this day is not only undefeated in the ring, but also in the PPV stats!