Mayweather, Pacquiao Will Brawl For Boxing's Richest Purse Ever

Mar 13, 2015
Originally published on March 13, 2015 9:28 am

There's some disagreement — even between the match's promoters — on where the upcoming mega-fight will rank in the greatest bouts of all time.

Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. and Manny "Pac-Man" Pacquiao — two of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world — meet May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in a welterweight world championship unification bout.

Leonard Ellerbe, chief executive of Mayweather Promotions, calls it "the biggest event in the history of boxing."

But Bob Arum, of Top Rank Inc., says no fight will ever have the societal and cultural impact of the sport's most legendary bouts — Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier, Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling.

"In 1971, March of '71, Ali and Frazier fought," Arum says. "The world stopped."

There's no disagreeing that the fight will be the sport's richest.

Mayweather, 38, is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. In 47 fights, the lightning-quick Michigan native has never lost. He's earned more than $400 million in the ring during his professional career. But this single fight could increase that total by more than 25 percent.

Pacquiao, 36, a native of the Philippines, has a 57-5-2 record and is the only fighter to win eight world titles in as many different weight divisions, according to the fight's promoters.

After years of wrangling over terms of the fight, Mayweather and Pacquiao agreed to a contract that included everything from random drug testing to the exact weight of their gloves (8 ounces). It also included a 60/40 split, meaning that Mayweather will get 60 percent of the purse for the fight, win or lose.

That purse is expected to be at least $200 million, putting Mayweather in line to make at least $120 million. Twenty Major League Baseball teams will have payrolls lower than that this season.

The purse for the fight could grow, too, depending on pay-per-view buys and ticket sales. Both are expected to shatter every existing record.

The pay-per-view price tag hasn't been set yet, but it's expected to cost around $90. Viewers who want to watch every jab in high definition can expect to pay an extra $10. And for the extra-high definition of watching the fight in person? Tickets will be $1,500 to $7,500 at face value, but most buyers will have to pay three or four times that in the resale market.

"That is the highest we've seen for face values of a fight ever," says Connor Gregoire, a communications analyst at SeatGeek, on online ticket broker.

The MGM Grand is expected to sell only a couple of hundred tickets publicly. Right now, Gregoire says, there are about 250 speculative tickets listed on the secondary market. The cheapest seat is about $5,400.

"And floor seats," Gregoire says, "which go for $7,500 on the high end, start at $28,000 and up on the secondary market."

"The price is such that ordinary people can't afford it," says promoter Arum. "But you got to realize, the same thing happens in the Super Bowl. It's just that boxing hasn't had that type of exposure."

The thing of it is, boxing has had that type of exposure. It used to be one of America's marquee sports. As Arum himself said, it used to make the world stop — it just hasn't in a long time. The rise of mixed martial arts, concerns about fighter safety and a lack of big-name boxing stars have led many to believe that the sport is in decline.

That's why the fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather — and all of the money around it — matters. The fight either will signal that boxing can be marquee again, or that its glory days and huge paydays are things of the past.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here at MORNING EDITION, we try to help you start your day with the news you need. And we generally follow some rules. Use numbers sparingly. It's morning, after all. And avoid superlatives. But when you're talking about a boxing match hyped as the fight of the century, and especially if you're talking about the money involved, it's a little hard to avoid, as NPR's Nathan Rott found out.

NATHAN ROTT, BYLINE: Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Manny Pacquiao, two of the best pound-for-pound boxers of all time in one ring on May 2 in Las Vegas. The fight of the decade? Sure. The fight of the century? It's still a little early, but yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LEONARD ELLERBE: The biggest boxing event in the history of the sport and one of the biggest events ever in all of sports.

ROTT: OK, let's pump the brakes. With apologies to Leonard Ellerbe of Mayweather Productions, the man you just heard talking at a recent presser, most boxing historians and experts say that this fight, while huge, is not boxing's biggest. That includes Pacquiao's legendary promoter Bob Arum outside of the same presser.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOB ARUM: You can't compare fights that occur in different eras. You can't. In 1971 - March of '71 - Ali and Frazier fought. The world stopped.

ROTT: What Arum and everyone else can agree on, though, is that this will be the richest boxing fight of all time. How so? Well, let's start with one of the men in the ring...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Floyd Money Mayweather.

ROTT: ...Who, as his nickname suggests, is one of the highest-paid athletes in the world. He's made more than $100 million boxing in a single year. And Mayweather could top that in this fight alone. The purse for the fight is expected to be at least $200 million. Mayweather will make 60 percent of that, Pacquiao 40, so doing the math, Mayweather stands to make at least $120 million win or lose, and it could be a lot higher. That $200 million purse can grow depending on pay-per-view buys and ticket sales, both of which are expected to break existing records. If you want to watch the fight from home, it's expected to be about $90, 10 more if you want to watch every jab in HD. For those that want to see the fight in person, good luck. Face value ticket prices are going to range from 1,500 to $7,500.

CONNOR GREGOIRE: And that is the highest we've seen face values for a fight ever.

ROTT: That's Connor Gregoire, an analyst at SeatGeek, an online ticket broker. And he says that those ticket prices are going to be hard to get. Only a couple hundred tickets are expected to be sold publicly.

GREGOIRE: So if you're going to buy a ticket - and this goes for, you know, whether or not you're a VIP or Joe-on-the-street - you're going to be paying secondary market prices.

ROTT: And right now, Gregoire says, the cheapest secondary market seat is about $5,000.

GREGOIRE: And floor seats, which go for, you know, 7,500 on the high end, they start at $28,000.

ROTT: Some people are complaining that that price is prohibitive to most fans. Promoter Bob Arum has heard them.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ARUM: But you've got to realize that this same thing happens in the Super Bowl. It's just that boxing hasn't had that type of exposure.

ROTT: But boxing did have that type of exposure. It used to be one of America's marquee sports. As Arum himself said, it used to make the world stop. It just hasn't in a long time, and that's why all of this matters. Pacquiao and Mayweather will either be the signal that boxing can be marquee again or that its glory days and all of these superlatives will be a thing of the past. Nathan Rott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.