The Biggest PPV Boxing Matches: Unveiling the Highest Buys

Updated: 17234 Boxing and MMA

Let's look into the historic battles that sit atop the list of highest PPV buys in boxing. Explore who clinched big earnings from Mayweather to McGregor, and reveal if the monumental clashes were worth every penny

The Biggest PPV Boxing Matches: Unveiling the Highest Buys
Frank Monkhouse Boxing Editor

Former professional Boxer Frank Monkhouse delivers knock-out content for OLBG as our Boxing betting expert

Top Pay-Per-View Buys Fights

In modern boxing, the biggest fights are shown live on pay-per-view. It’s a controversial approach from the leading promoters and businesses linked to boxing, but it’s here to stay. Critics say average fans are being priced out of the sport and already pay enough for a monthly sports subscription without having to fork out for PPV when the best fight the best. 

Top 10 PPV Fights

Date Fight Carrier US Buy rate
May 2, 2015 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao HBO/Showtime 4,600,000
Aug 26, 2017 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor Showtime 4,300,000
May 5, 2007 Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. HBO 2,400,000
Sep 14, 2013 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Álvarez Showtime 2,200,000
Nov 9, 2019 KSI vs. Logan Paul II DAZN 2,000,000
Jun 28, 1997 Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield II Showtime 1,990,000
Jun 8, 2002 Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson HBO/Showtime 1,970,000
Aug 19, 1995 Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley Showtime 1,600,000
Nov 9, 1996 Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield Showtime 1,600,000
Nov 28, 2020 Mike Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr. Triller 1,600,000
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Supporters of PPV argue it helps create the financial muscle to bring the best gladiators to the table in an age when money talks. In its defence, it has given boxing fans some huge contests, including Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao and Mike Tyson v Lennox Lewis. And there’s plenty more to come this season.

Notorious McGregor is the top PPV earner in mixed martial arts, dominating UFC buys over the years. He moved into the boxing world to face Mayweather in Las Vegas, and although he was defeated, the Irishman amassed another fortune in PPV cash. But which fights have attracted the most PPV buys in boxing, and what were the results?

Revealing Boxing's Top PPV Earners 🥊💥💰

🥊💰 Ever wondered which fights hold the record for the highest PPV buys in boxing? From Mayweather to McGregor, learn about the top earners and memorable matches!

The thing you will notice here is that Mayweather plays a part in each of the top four highest-selling PPV fights (US only), if we ignore the anomaly which is the clash between KSI and Logan Paul, we can also see who ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’ took the baton from.

Keep reading as we reveal details of boxing’s biggest earners from pay-per-view and the results. We want to show readers the top names in the fight game and how the most famous bouts played out. Did they live up to the pre-fight hype, or were they forgettable and hardly worth the money paid to watch?

Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao - 4,600,000 PPV Buys

It was billed as the biggest bout in a generation, and fans agreed. Avid followers of the fight game were joined by casual fans and celebrities at ringside for Money v PacMan while the millions worldwide who couldn’t be at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas watched on PPV.

Jimmy Harris, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Mayweather v Pacquiao is the biggest-grossing boxing match on PPV, generating 4.6 million buys, and that hasn’t been surpassed, despite the bout happening in 2015. Will we see another contest overthrow Mayweather v Pacquaio? It’s been almost a decade, and the numbers are going strong. 

Did the fight live up to the high expectations of fans? If ever there was a bout that was an excellent advert for PPV, it’s this one. Mayweather and Pac would’ve likely never made it to the ring without the financial incentives offered by PPV to the gladiators and their teams. The cash involved made the bout easy to confirm, and the two fighters did their bit to impress fans. Mayweather won on points comfortably, with armchair followers enjoying 12 pulsating rounds.

🥊💰 Clash of Titans: Mayweather v Pacquiao

Mayweather v Pacquiao 🏆still reigns in 2023 with 4.6M PPV buys 🎉 & $500M total revenue 💰. A 💪fight living up to its hype. Is Boxing dying or rebirthing 📈❓Rewind to KSI and Logan Paul's 2M PPV sales - impressive 😎 but to beat the titans - game needs to step up 🔝

Not only would this fight surpass 4.6 million US PPV buys but it would also generate $500m in overall revenue when taking into account worldwide sales of the fight. They say big-time boxing is dying, these figures certainly suggest otherwise. 

With YouTube boxing growing in prominence over the past few years, we can offer some context when compared to the second fight between KSI and Logan Paul. Groundbreaking by its own standards, but still only responsible for 2m US PPV purchases.

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Floyd Mayweather v Conor McGregor - 4,300,000 PPV Buys

When Conor McGregor swapped UFC for boxing, it raised a few eyebrows. Lovers of the noble art had to endure months of armchair MMA fans answering all facts and reason with one idiotic statement, “but McGregor only needs to land one shot, and Mayweather is out.” It was a testing time for boxing fans, but Mayweather came through.

By Mayweather Promotions - McGregor Sports and Entertainment - Showtime - Original publication: Showtime Boxing's Official TwitterImmediate source: https://twitter.com/ShowtimeBoxing/status/888518977890144257, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54620138

Floyd is the biggest and best salesman in boxing, and when he agreed to fight McGregor, the biggest and best salesman in MMA, we knew something magical would happen. The result in 2017 was 4.3 million PPV buys, placing it second behind Mayweather v Pacquiao.

Did fight fans get value for money? The ten rounds were worth watching, and we’re glad it didn’t finish as early as we’d feared. It was a memorable night and a celebration of combat sports. Mayweather and McGregor treated us to an enjoyable build-up, and the fight wasn’t too bad either. It was a mismatch, with Mayweather carrying McGregor into the later rounds before taking him out in style. 

💥👑 Mayweather x McGregor: Salesmanship Showdown in the Ring 🎪🏆

Floyd Mayweather & Conor McGregor, 🥊's biggest salesmen, stirred up a storm.💥 4.3M PPV buys 🎟️ trailing only Mayweather v Pacquiao. A triumph for combat sports 🏆, 10 rounds of thrilling action. McGregor's 18.4M total buys impress.

Of course, McGregor has been a UFC box-office smash for years and when you tally up all of his PPV purchases across the board (be that in the ring or the octagon), the Irish fighting sensation has been purchased on PPV on 18.4 million separate occasions. 

Impressive as that sounds, it still pales into significance when you look at Floyd Mayweather. The undefeated fighter has been a PPV purchase no less than 29 million times - and with no entries in the loss column, you can understand why he is such big business.

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Floyd Mayweather v Oscar de la Hoya - 2,400,000 PPV Buys

As you’ve likely guessed, Floyd Mayweather isn’t just a sensational boxer with every right to consider himself ‘The Best Ever’; he’s the master of selling a fight. That was true when he met long-term rival Oscar de la Hoya at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas 2007. The Pretty Boy was about to transform into Money Mayweather by beating the Golden Boy and taking his riches, opening a new era in the fight game.

By Boxrec.com, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27136722

Mayweather and de la Hoya were the two biggest names in combat sports at the time, and the fight was arguably bigger than Floyd’s meeting with PacMan, at least in terms of boxing pedigree. Mayweather won that bout on a split decision over 12 rounds, but both men emerged as winners thanks to a shattering 2.4 million PPV buys.

Did it live up to the hype? You bet. For the cash, fight fans were treated to 12 rounds of high-quality boxing, a razor-thin result, and Floyd winning another world title. 

🥊 Mayweather vs De La Hoya: A Battle of Cash 🥇💰

Mayweather vs De La Hoya: two mega-stars in '07 that delivered a sensational fight 🥊🔥. Mayweather took the title 🏆 in a thrilling split decision and a whopping 2.4M PPV buys. Global sales took fight revenue to an inflation-adjusted $200M!

When all the worldwide PPV sales were counted, this fight was responsible for generating $165m in fight revenue. If you think that sounds a lot in 2007, wait until that figure has been adjusted for inflation. Today that $165m now reads at $200m instead. 

While De La Hoya’s 13-year career was certainly illustrious and between 1995 and 2008 the fighter turned promoter amassed a total of 14m fight buys. A figure that would set him up rather nicely for work outside the ring.

Floyd Mayweather v Canelo Alvarez - 2,200,000 PPV Buys

Floyd Mayweather confirms his place as the king of boxing at number four - just like one, two, and three. Not only inside the ropes but in the boardrooms negotiating contracts, on TV selling PPV, and working overtime to hype the contest. Mayweather v Canelo wasn’t the biggest PPV fight, but it was another example of fans getting what they paid for.

By [1], Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39796365

The bout generated 2.2 million buys, helping to top-up Mayweather’s bank account while allowing Alvarez to make his name mainstream. Canelo lost that contest on points, much more convincingly than the scorecards suggested, but he won millions of new fans. The Mexican became the biggest name in boxing, eventually taking over from Floyd following the American’s retirement in 2017 following his win over McGregor.

The fight went the distance, had a controversial scorecard that gave Alvarez a draw, and showed Mayweather could still handle the best the next generation of fighters had to offer. Saul progressed to become P4P king, and he wasn’t too bad at flogging PPV either, having learned a lot from Money Mayweather.

🤼‍♂️💸 Mayweather vs Alvarez: The Passing of the Torch 🕯️👑

When Mayweather met Alvarez, 2.2M PPV buys 🎟️ turned Alvarez into a household name even in loss 🥊📈. The controversial match showcased Mayweather's timeless class and set Alvarez on the path to becoming P4P king 👑. 10 years ago, this showdown made a whopping $150M, which inflates to $190M today 💰🚀

With Alvarez serving as the unofficial king of Mexico, his fandom is unsurprisingly going to creep across the border. What is more impressive about the number of PPV buys is that even without any international sales, it still took the fifth highest overall revenue.

2.2 million buys for Showtime, meant the promoters would collect $150m in fight revenue 10 years ago. By the time you adjust this figure for inflation, that same revenue is now worth an extra $40m.

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Mike Tyson v Evander Holyfield II - 1,999,000 PPV Buys

The only bout on this list not to feature Mayweather is from 1997 when Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield met in a rematch. There was severe bad blood in the air, with threats coming from both directions during the build-up. Sometimes, that can help sell a fight, making Tyson v Holyfield II almost two million PPV buys.

Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10259177

Did fans get their money’s worth from paying for the bout? It only lasted three rounds and ended in controversy when a bad-tempered Tyson was disqualified for biting his opponent's ear. Tyson claimed it was retaliation for continued unpunished headbutts from Evander, but his excuses didn’t earn him much sympathy.

For their PPV cash, fans saw a little piece of boxing history. It wasn’t the Rumble in the Jungle, but it was one of the most peculiar fights in boxing history and will live long in the memory of those who watched the mayhem.

🥊👂 Tyson Bites Off More Than Expected: A Legendary Rumble 💥🏟️

Fans got more than a fight with Tyson's '97 bout, ending in ear-biting controversy in Round 3! 😲🥊 It may not have been a usual rumble, but it’s a memorable slice of #BoxingHistory 🥊🏛️ Not just in the US (2M PPV buys)🇺🇸, but in the UK too! (550k buys)🇬🇧.

Of course, we cannot forget that ‘Iron Mike’ was hugely popular on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Not only were there just short of 2m PPV buys in North America, but there were also 550,000 in the UK on Sky Box Office.

Although Tyson’s career had prolonged periods of absence for a number of reasons, the fearsome heavyweight was still a huge draw and from 1998 onwards he would be responsible for 20.7m total PPV buys - even if some did include his appearance at Wrestlemania 14.

We can also look at the top 10 fights when it comes to overall revenue from all worldwide PPV sales and a look at what a fight fan would have to spend on average to see such a duel:

Date Fight Network(s) Sales Revenue (est.) $ Average Sales $ Revenue (est. inflation) $
02/05/2015 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao HBO Showtime Sky Box Office Closed-circuit theatre TV 5,773,000 $500,000,000.00 $86.61 $500,000,000.00
26/08/2017 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor Showtime Sky Box Office 5,174,000 $500,000,000.00 $96.64 $500,000,000.00
28/06/1997 Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield II Showtime Sky Box Office Closed-circuit theatre TV 2,670,000 $180,000,000.00 $67.42 $330,000,000.00
05/05/2007 Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. HBO Closed-circuit theatre TV 2,450,000 $165,000,000.00 $67.35 $200,000,000.00
14/09/2013 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Álvarez Showtime 2,200,000 $150,000,000.00 $68.18 $190,000,000.00
08/12/2007 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Ricky Hatton HBO Sky Box Office 2,400,000 $134,000,000.00 $55.83 $190,000,000.00
15/09/2018 Canelo Álvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin II HBO 1,100,000 $117,000,000.00 $106.36 $117,000,000.00
22/02/2020 Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury II ESPN Fox Sports 1,200,000 $112,900,000.00 $94.08  
08/06/2002 Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson HBO Showtime Sky Box Office 2,720,000 $112,000,000.00 $41.18 $182,000,000.00
19/08/1995 Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley Showtime 1,600,000 $110,000,000.00 $68.75 $210,000,000.00
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As we can see Floyd Mayweather has been involved in $1bn worth of PPV sales in just two fights. His 2015 war with Manny Pacquiao and the 2017 duel with Irish MMA star Conor McGregor.

Two huge fights and then something of a step change from the fight that is third in terms of worldwide revenue. The Bronze medal is picked up by the joint efforts of Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, not to mention a certain piece of ear being bitten off.

To provide further context to the revenue that fights such as these are collecting, we can see how much an average PPV sale is worth and lets look at the same table, if the top 10 were listen in order from highest to lowest. 

Date Fight Network(s) Sales Revenue (est.) $ Average Sales $
15/09/2018 Canelo Álvarez vs. Gennady Golovkin II HBO 1,100,000 $117,000,000.00 $106.36
26/08/2017 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Conor McGregor Showtime Sky Box Office 5,174,000 $500,000,000.00 $96.64
22/02/2020 Deontay Wilder vs. Tyson Fury II ESPN Fox Sports 1,200,000 $112,900,000.00 $94.08
02/05/2015 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao HBO Showtime Sky Box Office Closed-circuit theatre TV 5,773,000 $500,000,000.00 $86.61
19/08/1995 Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley Showtime 1,600,000 $110,000,000.00 $68.75
14/09/2013 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Canelo Álvarez Showtime 2,200,000 $150,000,000.00 $68.18
28/06/1997 Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield II Showtime Sky Box Office Closed-circuit theatre TV 2,670,000 $180,000,000.00 $67.42
05/05/2007 Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. HBO Closed-circuit theatre TV 2,450,000 $165,000,000.00 $67.35
08/12/2007 Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Ricky Hatton HBO Sky Box Office 2,400,000 $134,000,000.00 $55.83
08/06/2002 Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson HBO Showtime Sky Box Office 2,720,000 $112,000,000.00 $41.18
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The fight between Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin would certainly not come cheap. Their hotly anticipated fight in 2018, generated 1,1m sales in the US and $117m in fight revenue - this equates to just over an average of $106 dollars per sale.

Then again, you would not get much change if you were to purchase the exhibition between Mayweather and McGregor.. On average, this fight would cost $96.64, the second fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury would be $94.08 by comparison.

A further comparison would takes us back to 2002 when Lennox Lewis got the better of Mike Tyson. 2.72m sales worldwide and $112m total revenue to go with it, this would equare to $41.18 per average purchase. 

Compare that to the average cost of Alvarez vs Golovkin II and you would be paying two and half times more in 2018 than you were in 2002. Of course, inflation can explain some of the difference but not of all it.

If we put that same $41.18 in an inflation calculator, it would be worth $57.48 some 16 years later - somehow the PPV companies have found almost another 50 dollars for fight fans to find before watching the fight.

Again it does show that if the show is big one, punters are prepared to spend large amounts to watch it. For all those that say boxing is on the way out, it has far from been delivered a knockout blow when it comes to PPV. 

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Methodology

Main PPV sales figures quoted as US only
Revenue table is all PPV sales worldwide

Source - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pay-per-view

Inflation Calculator - https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

About the Authors

Our Data Scientist Dan Tracey collected the stats and data for this article, and Frank Monkhouse our In-house Boxing expert and former professional boxer fighting at middleweight now turned sports betting writer supplying content for a range of outlets including Betfair, Coral, William Hill, World Sports Network and The Racing Post, wrote the words. All images are credited to sources and no copyright infringement is intended.

We are proud to have Frank Monkhouse on our expert teams at OLBG, maintaining our relationship since sponsoring him when he was fighting professionally, and now he delivers us top-notch boxing and fighting sport content for the OLBG pages.

Frank Monkhouse

Frank Monkhouse

Boxing editor

Frank Monkhouse is a former professional boxer fighting at middleweight now turned sports betting writer supplying content from knockout-content for a range of outlets including Betfair, Coral, William Hill, World Sports Network and The Racing Post and proudly as the Boxing Betting Expert on OLBG. 

👨‍🏫 Specialist Subjects🔬📚

It is no surprise to find Frankie is our Boxing expert, although he has a deep catalogue of work in regards to football previews as Rangers fan. Frankie has written preview for boxing events as well as working on some deep data driven boxing content for us too.

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