Boxing is a gruelling, demanding sport that requires an unmeasurable amount of discipline and dedication, arguably more than any other professional game.
For many boxers trying to carve a living out of fighting, the rewards will not often measure to the perspiration and blood sacrificed.
When a boxer does reach the elite-level status, they could earn more in one night than many other sports athletes earn in a year. This amount of wealth could last through generations, so how is it that so many boxers will likely lose it all?
Boxers may have great discipline in the ring and training in the gym but it seems the exact opposite when it comes to finances.
We all watched an aged Evander Holyfield refuse to retire from boxing until he reached almost half a century in years, a career spanning over four decades.
Holyfield was declared bankrupt after earning some $230 million from his 57 fights, in which his lowest purse was $600,000 and the biggest being $33 million.
The ‘Real Deal’, one of the greatest fighters of all time, is now flat broke and forced to sell off everything to pay huge debts and keep the wolves from the door. Virtually his whole life goes under the hammer at a Beverley Hills auction next month in what is believed to be the world's biggest sale of sporting memorabilia.
The ear biting opponent in that $33 million fight, ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, has also been declared bankrupt. Then there’s other legends such as Roberto Duran whose ring legacy will live on forever but fortunes have already ran out.
Talking of today’s active fighters, Mayweather is one of the greatest fighters of his generation and may rank with the best pound-for-pound fighters of all time. His earnings are in excess of $200 million to date.
First and foremost is his pristine 44 fight unbeaten record collected in the ring over 17 years. He holds the record for the biggest pay-per-view audience ever for his 2007 fight against Oscar De La Hoya, which attracted 2.5 million buyers and an all-time high $132 million in PPV revenue. Mayweather earned a boxing best $45 million, including his cut of PPV, for his 2012 showdown with Miguel Cotto. His $32 million guarantee for both the Cotto fight and his previous fight against Roberto Guerrero were the highest ever for a boxer.
On September 14, Mayweather will fight hard hitting, exciting, unbeaten Mexican Canelo Alvarez in a bout billed as ‘The One’ and every record is at stake. Mayweather will receive a record $41.5 million guarantee for the Alvarez fight and will then sit back and collect his share of PPV receipts as they trickle in from carriers like DirecTV and Dish Network. It will be the biggest payday of Mayweather’s career when all the PPV numbers are tallied.
Yet Mayweather is constantly flaunting his money by making large sports bets and loves to show off his extravagance on Twitter. He allegedly lost $3 million on just one sports bet. Surely this flamboyance and reckless regard could one day cost him his fortune.
In addition to gambling, boxers are susceptible to losing their money through bad investments. After spending a life time sweating in the gym and pummelling heavy bags, what savvy investment skills could a boxer have picked up within this time?
Almost every team sport has a regular wage structure and not one-off, colossal paydays like in boxing. A team sports player that earns £2 million spread over five years will learn to appreciate the money a lot more than if it was handed over in one lump sum.
When the money is earned so fast and a boxer becomes so rich in such a short time, it’s almost inevitable their transformed life will turn into a circus show with every friend, acquaintance and hanger-on expecting a piece of the action. That feeling of being adored by many can be very intoxicating and dangerously addictive.
The best thing is for a boxer to surround himself with the right crowd from day one. This will be in the form of competitive gym mates to constantly motivate and push him on, a best friend who will drive miles around delivering tickets for fights, a professional agent to ensure there are sponsorship deals to allow him to concentrate on his craft, a trainer who educates and inspires, a manager and promoter who have an honest investment in him and share the same goals and means to success, and friends and family to provide the love and support needed in such a lonely and vulnerable occupation.
Young British prospect Bradley Saunders is on this fast paced path to the top after a blistering first year in the pro ranks fighting on some of the top British shows of 2012 including the auld rivalry between Scot Ricky Burns and Englishman Kevin Mitchell, the controversial Haye v Chisora and the well-loved cricketer turned boxer Freddie Flintoff’s debut fight.
After such a long time devoted to the amateurs and collecting various medals in the Olympics, Commonwealths and World Championships, the momentum in the pro ranks is now picking up at such a speed it could become a cause for concern. However, with the increase in prosperity comes the financial priorities and discipline with which every boxer should take note. The Beijing Olympian has surrounded himself with the right people after fearing that he could be following the same ill-trodden path that so many others have strayed from.
Saunders has now established strong business investments in the North East which are expanding rapidly into nationwide operations with the help of a sound business partner and PR manager. This responsibility and prudence after just six professional fights is refreshingly commendable.
It’s time that the financial side of boxing is considered as part of every boxer’s career. All active professional fighters should take heed and look to grow their team into one that can provide good advice and wise investments with each swelling payday and plan to be a success out of the ring as well as within it.