It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much money an athlete has made in their career, especially when it comes to boxing. Many fighters are paid a percentage of the live gate and/or pay-per-view sales as well as the agreed-upon salary in the contract and possibly other broadcasting revenue. And let’s not forget they also have to pay the taxman, the promoter and their training and management teams etc.
There’s no doubt top boxers are among the best-paid athletes in the world and this list deals with the top 10 money makers in the ring during their careers. It shows their estimated career earnings in the ring and not what their current net worth may be or how much they’ve made outside of the ring. A prime example of this would be George Foreman, who made more by selling his famous grilling machine than he did by boxing.
10. Vitali Klitschko – $70 million
Before he became the mayor of Kiev, 45-year-old Vitali Klitschko of Ukraine was one of the best heavyweight boxers in the modern era and is the brother of Wladimir Klitschko, another great heavyweight titleholder. While he was earning a living in the ring, Klitschko was a three-time world heavyweight champ and is ranked eighth overall for the longest reign in the division. He posted a record of 45-2 with 41 Kos from 1996 to 2012 with a knockout ratio of 87 per cent, the best ever in heavyweight champion history. His two losses came on cuts (Lennox Lewis) and a shoulder injury (Chris Byrd) while leading both bouts on the scorecards. In fact, he’s the only heavyweight champ to never be knocked down. Klitschko’s biggest bouts were against Lewis, Orlin Norris, Samuel Peter, Shannon Briggs, Tomasz Adamek and Kevin Johnson and helped him earn $70 million in the ring.
9. Felix Trinidad – $85 million
The good news for Puerto Rico’s Felix Trinidad is that he made $85 million in the ring. The bad news is that he lost most of it in 2014 after investing millions of dollars in Puerto Rican government bonds which then went south. Trinidad turned pro in 1990 when he was just 17. He went 42-3 during his career with 35 Kos before retiring in 2008 after losing his last two fights and three of his last five. Trinidad was a five-time national champion in his homeland as an amateur and ended up winning world titles in three different weight divisions as a pro. The now-44-year-old took on the likes of Roy Jones Jr, Oscar De La Hoya, Winky Wright, Hector Camacho, Pernell Whitaker, Fernando Vargas, William Joppy, Bernard Hopkins and Ricardo Mayorga. Trinidad made 15 defenses of his welterweight title to rank second all time and reigned in the division for six years, eight months and fourteen days.
8. Wladimir Klitschko – $110 million and Counting
Wladimir Klitschko won the gold medal in the super-heavyweight division at the 1996 Olympics for Ukraine and turned pro later that year. He hasn’t been a pay-per-view star, but he was a heavyweight champion for about a decade and has fought on a regular basis. His current record stands at 64-5 with 53 Kos after losing his last two contests. Klitschko ranks second all-time for title defenses in the heavyweight division with 23 while Joe Louis holds the record with 25. He also owns the second-longest reign as heavyweight champion. The 41-year-old makes plenty of money outside the ring as well with various business ventures including running the K2 Promotions company with his brother Vitali. However, his boxing days may not be over. Klitschko may decide to exercise the rematch clause for his April knockout loss to Anthony Joshua and could easily earn about $20 million if they meet again.
7. Sugar Ray Leonard – $120 million
Sugar Ray Leonard of Wilmington, North Carolina fought just before the big-money era of boxing even though many of his fights were shown around the world on closed-circuit television. He was the first pugilist to earn $100 million in the ring and he also made a good living from endorsements. Leonard’s net worth today is approximately $120 million. He won a junior-welterweight gold medal at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and fought pro from 1977 to 1997 with world title belts in five different weight divisions. He made his money by taking on some of the best boxers of all time such as Wilfredo Benitez, Roberto Duran, Hector Camacho, Terry Norris, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler. He retired with a record of 36-3-1 with 25 Kos after losing his last two fights.
6. Lennox Lewis – $140 million
Former undisputed heavyweight king Lennox Lewis of London, England won the super heavyweight gold medal at the 1988 Olympics for Canada. He fought professionally from1989 to 2003 with a record of 41-2-1 with 32 Kos. Lewis beat the likes of Vitali Klitschko, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Ray Mercer, Oliver McCall, Andrew Golota, Razor Ruddock, Frank Bruno, Tony Tucker, Tommy Morrison and Hasim Rahman. His 2002 knockout win over Tyson alone resulted in close to two million pay-per-view buys and pulled in about $110 million in revenue. Lewis fought seven times on pay-per-view with close to 5.6 million buys. The 51-year-old has handled his fortune well as his net worth now is reportedly at least $130 to $140 million, which is about the same amount he earned in the ring.
5. Evander Holyfield – $300 million
Former heavyweight and cruiserweight champ Evander Holyfield of Atmore, Alabama was another boxer who fell on hard times after making a ton of money. Holyfield earned about $300 million in the ring by taking on all comers such as Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe, Michael Moorer, John Ruiz, Ray Mercer, Larry Holmes, Buster Douglas, Michael Dokes, James Toney, Chris Byrd, Lennox Lewis and George Foreman. Holyfield had 57 pro fights between 1984 and 2011 with a record of 44-10-2 with 29 Kos and a no contest. In addition, 13 of them were shown on pay-per-view. Holyfield fathered 11 children with six different women, was accused of failing to pay child support and had a $10 million mansion foreclosed in 2008. He was apparently bankrupt by 2012 and facing numerous debts and lawsuits just a year after retiring.
4. Mike Tyson – $400 million
New York’s Mike Tyson was one of the biggest and best-paid boxers of his era from 1985 to 2005. Tyson had great knockout power early in his career with 19 straight stoppages to kick it off with and became the youngest-ever world heavyweight champ at just over 20 years old. People all over the globe would pay to see him knock opponents out and he fought quite often with a career record of 50-6 with 44 Kos and two no contests. He took on the biggest names of his time including Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Andrew Golota, Michael Spinks, Frank Bruno, Razor Ruddock, Larry Holmes, Trevor Berbick, Tony Tucker and Pinklon Thomas. But even though Tyson reportedly made between $300 and $400 million in the ring due to plenty of pay-per-view fights, he ended up blowing most of it. Tyson declared bankruptcy in 2003 while reportedly being more than $20 million in debt.
3. Oscar De La Hoya – $450 million
Former gold-medal Olympian Oscar De La Hoya was already known to boxing fans when turning pro in 1992 after the Summer Games in Barcelona. The native of Los Angeles fought 45 times as a pro up until 2009 with a 39-6 record with 30 Kos. He also won 10 world belts in six different weight classes while his pay-per-view appearances pulled in about $700 million. De La Hoya faced the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas, Julio Cesar Chavez, Felix Trinidad and Hector Camacho. He was well known his speed and power and ended up beating 17 world champions during his career. The 44-year-old De La Hoya, who has a net worth of about $200 million, is still raking in the money today as his Golden Boy Promotions company is one of the most successful in boxing history.
2. Manny Pacquiao – $510 million and Counting
Philippine boxing legend Manny Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 Kos) was just robbed in the ring when he was handed a unanimous decision defeat to Jeff Horn of Australia. However, he’s still filthy rich with an estimated $510 million of ring earnings and a net worth of $200 million. Pacquiao has made a fine living from boxing even though he’s also a senator in his homeland. He’s fought the biggest names in the sport during his career and has won world titles in eight different weight classes. He’s taken on the likes of Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Timothy Bradley, Marco Antonio Barrera, Ricky Hatton, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley and of course Floyd Mayweather. Pacquiao’s a huge pay-per-view star with $1.2 billion in revenue and his fight against Horn pulled in more than 50,000 fans in Brisbane, Australia. He may not be done yet as the 38-year-old should want to avenge his loss to Horn by invoking his rematch clause.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. – $700 million and Counting
Hands down, 40-year-old Floyd Mayweather Jr. of Grand Rapids, Michigan has earned the most money in the ring and it’s certainly helped that he’s been promoting himself for the past few years. Mayweather, at 49-0 with 26 Kos, has proven to be the sport’s biggest pay-per-view attraction with $1.6 billion worth of sales. And even though the former five-division world champion retired in September, 2015 he’s now coming back to fill his vault once again by taking on UFC fighter Conor McGregor in Las Vegas on August 26th. Mayweather’s net worth is pegged at about $300 million and this basically comes without any major endorsement deals. His biggest money-making bouts were against the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, Oscar De La Hoya, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez and Marcos Maidana.