There’s a reason they call boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. “Money.” He fought twice during the past 12 months, knocking out Victor Ortiz in September and winning a unanimous decision in May against Miguel Cotto. He spent less than one hour in the ring to dispatch his two foes.
His combined payday for the bouts: $85 million.
That helped make Mayweather the world’s highest-paid athlete over the past year, unseating Tiger Woods, who has been the top-earner since 2001. Woods ranks third this year with earnings of $59.4 million.
Mayweather maximizes his earnings by also acting as his own fight promoter through his company Mayweather Promotions. He collects all of the revenue from tickets, pay-per-view and sponsorships and covers the costs, including the purse for his opponent. His take home per fight is typically at least 50% higher than what his rival Manny Pacquiao earns.
Being a wildly polarizing figure doesn’t seem to have hurt his earnings. He charmed old ladies as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2007 and provoked outrage with his racially charged, hate-filled rant against Pacquiao in 2010. His antics create buzz, and the result is both boxing fans and people who are normally indifferent to the sport pay up for his bouts. He has been a part of the four biggest non-heavyweight PPV events in boxing’s history. The Cotto fight generated $94 million in PPV receipts.
Paquiao ranks second with earnings of $62 million. Over the past 12 months he fought Juan Manuel Marquez and Tim Bradley. The bouts netted him $56 million, including money he gets from their broadcast in the Philippines. He also made an estimated $6 million over the past year outside the ring through endorsements with Nike, Hewlett-Packard, Monster Energy and Hennessy.
Woods’ total earnings dropped $16 million from last year to $59.4 million and have been sliced in half since their peak in 2009. Despite his collapse in this year’s U.S. Open, Woods is playing much better on the course and his prize money doubled from the prior 12 months. But the $2 million bump in prize money does not offset the loss of sponsors like Tag Heuer and Gillette.
Woods’ golf course design business has also struggled. Development of his Dubai course was shut down last year and the developer of his North Carolina course, Cliffs Club & Hospitality, filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
LeBron James leads the 13 basketball players that made the cut. James ranks fourth overall with earnings of $53 million. James, like all NBA players, had his salary sliced 20% by the NBA lockout, but he continues to make a mint off the court from sponsors like Nike, Coca-Cola, State Farm and McDonald’s. James’ income also got a boost when he received cash as part of his marketing partnership with Fenway Sports Group last year, through which James received a stake in the soccer club Liverpool.
More info at Forbes.com