Sportsmail charts the rise of boxing purses over the last 111 years

From Tommy Burns and Jack Johnson scrapping over $30,000 to Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz Jr splitting a money-spinning $98MILLION in Saudi Arabia rematch… Sportsmail charts the rise of boxing purses in history

  • Fight purses on offer to boxers have risen dramatically over the last 100 years
  • Tommy Burns and Jack Johnson fought over $30,000 in Sydney back in 1908
  • Anthony Joshua is due to get £66m from his Andy Ruiz Jr rematch this week
  • Sportsmail takes to the archives to look back at which fights earned the most 

It is safe to say that the money involved in prize-fighting has rocketed in the last decade, with Anthony Joshua set for a £66million pay-day for his rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr on Saturday in Saudi Arabia. 

He will be due for more if he wins and the money involved is a long way from what was on offer in Sydney 111 years ago when Tommy Burns and Jack Johnson fought over a $30,000 purse. 

Sportsmail charts the rise and rise of prize-fight purses from that 14-round brawl between Burns and Johnson to Conor McGregor’s money-spinning foray into boxing to take on Floyd Mayweather in 2017.

Anthony Joshua is in line for £66m from his latest fight, showing the rise in prize-fight purses

1908 – $30,000

Tommy Burns v Jack Johnson

This fight in Sydney was the first time a black man (Johnson) fought for the world heavyweight title. The bout was stopped after 14 rounds, with Johnson declared the champion.

Tommy Burns (left) took on Jack Johnson (right) in Sydney for a prize purse totalling $30,000

1910 – $120,000 

Jack Johnson v James J Jeffries

Former world heavyweight champion Jeffries came out of retirement to fight Johnson in Nevada. Jeffries’ corner threw in the towel in the 15th round of the original ‘fight of the century’.

1921 – $300,000 

Jack Dempsey v Georges Carpentier

World heavyweight champion Dempsey knocked out world light-heavyweight champion Carpentier in Jersey City. This was the first boxing match to be transmitted on the radio.

1927 – $990,000 

Gene Tunney v Jack Dempsey

Tunney retained his world heavyweight crown in a rematch with Dempsey known as the ‘long count fight’. Tunney went down, the count was delayed, and he ended up emerging victorious.

1971 – $2.5m 

Joe Frazier v Muhammad Ali

The first fight of an epic trilogy between Ali and Frazier saw Ali suffer the first defeat of his professional career after 15 rounds in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

1974 – $5.4m 

George Foreman v Muhammad Ali

The Rumble in the Jungle is arguably the most famous boxing match of all time and it saw Ali knock down undefeated world heavyweight champion Frazier in the eighth round in Kinshasa.

Muhammad Ali (right) lands a right hand on George Forman (left) in their fight back in 1974

1980 – $7.5m 

Sugar Ray Leonard v Roberto Duran

Leonard lost his WBC welterweight championship to Duran in Montreal by unanimous decision. Leonard never recovered after a Duran left hook in the second round knocked him into the ropes.

1980 – $18m 

Roberto Duran v Sugar Ray Leonard

Leonard won the title back off Duran in New Orleans. It came after Duran sensationally quit at the end of the eighth round by saying to the referee ‘No mas’ — no more in Spanish.

1996 – $25m 

Frank Bruno v Mike Tyson

Tyson won the WBC heavyweight championship from Englishman Bruno in Las Vegas after the fight was stopped in the third round following a brutal 13-punch combination.

Mike Tyson (left) took on heavyweight Frank Bruno (right) in 1996 for a prize purse worth $25m

1997 – $33m 

Evander Holyfield v MIke Tyson

This rematch for the WBA heavyweight championship saw Tyson disqualified and subsequently lose his boxing license for shockingly biting off part of Holyfield’s ear.

2007 – $52m 

Oscar De La Hoya v Floyd Mayweather

This light-middleweight fight in Las Vegas saw Mayweather win the WBC title by split decision after 12 tense rounds. De La Hoya was 10lb heavier than Mayweather on fight night and only fought twice more.

2013 – $80m 

Floyd Mayweather v Canelo Alvarez

Another light-middleweight fight in Las Vegas and another Mayweather victory after 12 rounds. Mayweather looked untroubled for the duration of the fight and easily inflicted a first career defeat on his Mexican opponent. 

2015 – $180m 

Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

After unbelievable levels of hype in the build-up, Mayweather won a cagey and unexciting affair by unanimous decision.

After serious hype, Floyd Mayweather defeated Manny Pacquiao in 2015 in a $180m contest

2017 – $275m 

Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor

MMA’s McGregor tried his hand at boxing, but was predictably outclassed by the peerless Mayweather — who took his record to 50 wins and no losses.

2019 – $98m

Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr

This hotly-contested rematch has captured the imagination of boxing fans and has seen an eye-watering prize purse established. 

Joshua is set for a heftier split, with £66m going to him, but he could be in line for more lucrative fights if he escapes another defeat to the Mexican.  




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