Floyd Mayweather and the 10 Biggest PPV Boxing Events of All Time
The title of Pay-Per-View King has been a coveted one amongst boxers ever since it hit popularity in the 1980s.
Pay-per-view can be seen as a measure of the spread of a boxer's influence over the spectating market, how badly fans would like to see their most beloved heroes and most hated athletes perform when it matters most.
Ever since the first pay-per-view showing of Muhammad Ali's and Joe Frazier's 'Thrilla In Manila', the paid experience of watching a big fight live has become a customary practice amongst boxing fans around the world.
From groups of families and friends gathering together for pay-per-view parties with everyone pitching in to the die-hard fan that want to give his favorite boxer a show of gratuity, pay-per-view events have become some of the most anticipated of the year.
The current king of pay-per-view would have to be none other than undefeated superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr., who in his last three fights has generated more than any other boxer has in his entire career.
Mayweather has also been the pioneer and leader of HBO's award-winning series, HBO 24/7, an exclusive show that gives fans a unique and unprecedented inside look into each of the boxer's lives in the final four weeks leading up to his fight.
The series has been largely helpful to pay-per-view sales and with a persona as polarizing as his, it is no surprise Mayweather continues to dominate the world of pay-per-view.
There are, however, many other fighters that have made their mark on the televised world's largest stage and in this slideshow, we take a look at the top ten bouts that sold the most number of units in pay-per-view history.
Note that there are 14 bouts in totality, being that with the given estimates, six bouts are tied into similar places within the range of the top ten.
1. Floyd Mayweather vs. Oscar De La Hoya
Estimated PPV Buys: 2,400,000
Date: May 5, 2007
If there ever was a defining moment in pay-per-view's history, Floyd Mayweather's legendary Cinco de Mayo victory over Oscar De La Hoya in 2007 would have to be it.
Dubbed "The World Awaits," the fight lived up to its name in every way imaginable with two of the best Olympic draws in boxing history, the Golden Boy facing the Pretty Boy was a matchup made in boxing heaven.
With De La Hoya coming off a resounding technical knockout victory over Ricardo Mayorga to capture the WBC Light Middleweight Title, tensions grew as the 37-0 Mayweather―fresh off victories over Zab Judah and Carlos Baldomir in 2006―looked to explore the 154 weight-class for the first time in his career in 2007.
Signs of the fight's blockbuster potential came non-stop throughout the bout's promotion, with tickets to the fight selling out within three hours of booth openings, four months prior to the fight itself.
Thanks to the sell out, the fight broke the previous live gate record of $16,860,300 set by Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis in 1999, generating over $19 million in attendance.
HBO spearheaded the promotion of the bout with the first ever showing of the network's pioneering and Emmy Award-winning series, HBO 24/7.
Come fight night, 12 rounds of bell-to-bell action ended with Mayweather winning the match via split-decision. Judges Jerry Roth and Chuck Giampa calculated the cards 115-113 and 116-112 in favor of Mayweather while judge Tom Kaczmarek was the lone opposition, scoring it 115-113 for De La Hoya.
This fight would complete Mayweather's transformation from "Pretty Boy" Floyd, to "Money" Mayweather.
Though there are numerous Mayweather detractors that would claim Oscar De La Hoya was the main reason for the fight having had such historical magnitude (most often citing De La Hoya's $52 million cut compared to Mayweather's $25 million), the self-proclaimed greatest ever had only one thing to say, "De La Hoya? Did he win?"
2. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield II
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,990,000
Date: June 28, 1997
Though the second bout between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield is only the second biggest pay-per-view attraction of all time, it very well may be the most notorious.
After stopping Tyson in the 11th round of their first match (despite being written-off as a 25-1 underdog), Holyfield had earned his due respect, having pulled off one of the greatest upsets in boxing history.
Having lost only once before, Tyson's loss to Holyfield sent shock waves throughout the boxing world, setting the stage for what would supposedly be a blockbuster rematch.
Would Holyfield hold off Tyson once again? Or would Iron Mike fix the game plan get his sweet revenge?
Prior to the bout, Tyson's camp protested against the use of Mitch Halpern, the same referee from the first fight, due to his decisions throughout the encounter that may have put Tyson at a disadvantage.
Although Tyson's camp found its request granted with Halpern being substituted with Mills Lane, the change in officiating wouldn't change their fortunes against Holyfield.
The rematch began with a see-saw first round, suggesting that the fight would be the clash of the titans that everyone was hoping it would be.
In the second round however, an incident from the first fight would extend its presence over to the rematch. Holyfield ducked to evade a right from Tyson but in the process gave Tyson a headbutt, opening a cut above his right eye.
In round 3, Tyson went on to bite off a piece of Holyfield's right ear during a clinch, causing a momentary stoppage in action. After the ringside doctor deemed Holyfield able to continue, referee Lane deducted two points from Tyson and signaled for the fight to continue.
However, Tyson wasn't done yet. In the blanket of another clinch, Tyson again bit Holyfield's left ear, causing Holyfield to desperately back away. Though Lane did not immediately disqualify Tyson, he did so once both fighters returned to their respective corners.
What came next was a furious fit of frustration from Tyson towards Holyfield's corner. Security be able to restrain Tyson, but as he made his way into the locker room, a fan threw a water bottle at his direction, prompting him to climb into the stands and taunt the crowd.
Tyson's license was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and he was fined a sum of $3 million.
The fight is still infamously known around the sporting world as "The Bite Fight" and will forever hold its place as one of the shadiest moments in sports history.
3. Mike Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,950,000
Date: June 8, 2002
Despite being third on the list, the meeting between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis is actually the second in terms of pay-per-view revenue, raking in almost $107 million on the number of pay-per-view units sold.
The match was held at The Pyramid Arena in Memphis, Tennessee after Las Vegas refused to host the bout. Meanwhile, Memphis put in a bid of $12 million for the rights to the event.
Other than the fact that Lewis drew a healthy viewing audience from his native the United Kingdom, another likely motivator for the large amount of pay-per-view purchases was the press conference brawl wherein Tyson attacked Lewis during an introductory portion of the conference.
Following the melee, a reporter retorted that Tyson should be put in a straight jacket. Tyson responded by delivering what might be the most profanity-filled epic tirade in all of sports history.
Though Tyson may have dominated the hype and prelude to fight, he can now only wish that the same could have been said for the fight itself.
Lewis was able to withstand a couple aggressive outbursts from Tyson early in the fight, but would soon go on to wear down the American challenger and dispose of Tyson in the eighth round with a right cross to the jaw.
4. Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield I
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,590,000
Date: November 9, 1996
The build up to the first Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield fight was no less than six years in the making due to the unavailability of one fighter or the other. The fight was first scheduled in 1990 but never came to pass. In 1991 and 1992, a rib-injury and a later jail sentence prevented Tyson from participating in the anticipated bout.
Fittingly, in 1996 when the fight became a reality, it was given the name "Finally".
Holyfield came into the bout as a huge underdog and was considered to have been washed up after losing to Riddick Bowe and Michael Moorer in two of his last four fights.
But Holyfield ended up pulling off a stunning upset.
After 11 rounds of watching Holyfield physically dominate Tyson, referee Mitch Halpern stopped the fight, giving Holyfield the win via technical knockout.
Though Tyson acknowledged his defeat, his camp had complaints regarding the performance of referee Halpern, who did not penalize Holyfield for two severe headbutts delivered in the sixth round which caused a cut above Tyson's left eye.
Halpern judged both headbutts to be accidental and let the fight resume.
This perceived negligence led Tyson's camp to request that Halpern not officiate the immediate rematch with Holyfield.
5. Mike Tyson vs. Peter McNeeley
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,550,000
Date: August 19, 1995
Mike Tyson's first win on this list was the fight that garnered what was then the largest audience to ever view a boxing event.
People from over 90 different countries were tuned in to see the return of the great Tyson from his three-year incarceration for rape.
The world wanted to see what the effect of some time away from the real world would have on the 41-1 former heavyweight title holder.
His opponent, an up-and-coming slugger named Peter McNeeley, made for an interesting comeback matchup. McNeeley boasted a record of 36 victories, with 30 coming by way of knockout. His only single professional defeat came at the hands of Stanley Wright for the New England Heavyweight Title.
Coming into the fight, there was speculation that McNeeley would come out of the gate aggressively and would look to inflict damage on Tyson early. Before the bout, McNeely even went so far to say that he would wrap the returning boxer in a "cocoon of horror."
Unfortunately for McNeeley—and the worldwide audience—this game plan backfired as Tyson was able to weather the early onslaught, then knock down McNeeley twice in the first round.
McNeeley's manager Vinnie Vecchione hurriedly entered the ring following the second knockdown to put a stop to the fight, garnering a loss by disqualification for his corner.
Though surprised by Vecchione's decision, McNeeley accepted it and went to congratulate Tyson immediately after the official announcement.
The crowd, however, wasn't too pleased with the show, likely upset about having spent what they did for such an underwhelming sporting spectacle.
6. Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,450,000
Date: November 12, 2011
Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez thought that a third meeting would finally put an end to the heated debate and personal vendetta that burned on both sides.
It was supposed to be the bout that would end the speculation over who exactly won their first two fights.
Pacquiao first met Marquez in the ring in 2004. The two were still in the featherweight division, with Marquez riding on a 13-bout winning streak and Pacquiao having won his previous five fights.
For the first time in his career, Marquez found himself floored—three times in the opening round. What at first seemed to be a mismatch in Pacquiao's favor soon transformed into one of the most explosive punch-for-punch exhibitions in boxing.
A second match, titled "Unfinished Business," would take place four years later in 200. But this rematch only opened more wounds for Marquez and his followers who believed that he had dominated the second fight, too.
Though Pacquiao would later say that his business with Marquez was over, the pair once again agreed to a fight in 2011.
Pacquiao would go on to take another controversial 12-round victory as the judges voted unanimously in his favor, much to the surprise of many spectators at the live gate and among the pay-per-view audience.
Marquez left the arena without waiting for the customary exit interview to the cheers of many in attendance who felt he did enough to claim the victory.
It looks as if Pacquiao and Marquez are simply a pair that will never quite find a definite resolution to their rivalry.
7. Floyd Mayweather vs. Shane Mosley (Tied)
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,400,000
Date: May 1, 2010
With his clear-cut shutout of welterweight superstar "Sugar" Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather can be thanked for putting an end to the stream of controversial victories that have comprised the list so far.
A bout between Mayweather and Mosley was much in great demand as soon as Mayweather announced his return to the sport and after Mosley scored knockout victories over Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito.
A year after taking on Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez for his comeback in 2009, Mayweather faced Mosley after failing to secure a bout with Filipino champion Manny Pacquiao.
Other than a tense second round, wherein Mosley caught Mayweather with two stunning straight right hands that uncharacteristically wobbled the undefeated superstar, the rest of the 12-round bout went entirely in Mayweather's favor.
Mayweather would once again prove to the world just how calm, collected and composed he can be, translating his masterful defense into efficient offense.
Mayweather would win the match with the two judges scoring it 119–109 and another 118-110, all in his favor.
It would then go down as the second-highest selling non-heavyweight pay-per-view bout in the history of boxing (behind Mayweather vs. De La Hoya) and was said to have generated $78.3 million in revenue.
7. Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Trinidad (Tied)
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,400,000
Date: September 18,1999
Both Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad were undefeated coming into this fight.
De La Hoya had a record of 31-0, walking over some of the biggest names in the welterweight division. Trinidad came in at 35-0, with victories over Pernell Whitaker and Hugo Pineda in the same year.
The background stories of De La Hoya and Trinidad were somewhat similar, both were hugely successful prior to becoming professionals, with Trinidad garnering fame in amateur boxing while De La Hoya made a name for himself as an Olympic champion.
It was no surprise then that a match between two such dominant fighters would result in a close decision.
As the fight started, De La Hoya stuck to his original game plan of boxing and controlling the tempo. But, in fight wound down, De La Hoya decided to brawl. With his opponent now fighting his kind of fight, Trinidad took control of the bout.
Despite the late rally, it seemed almost a certainty that De La Hoya had already sealed the deal by dominating the first eight rounds.
At fight's end, the judges' scorecards stood at 115–113, 115–114 and 114–114, in a majority decision in favor of Trinidad.
De La Hoya's confident post-match aura disappeared completely.
A rematch would never be made, and the result still stands as one of the more debatable decisions in the fight game.
7. Evander Holyfield vs. George Foreman (Tied)
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,400,000
Date: April 19, 1991
George Foreman was on his second boxing comeback, trekking from one era of the sport to another.
Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and company were all gone. New faces such as Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield now dominated the sport.
Foreman wrote in his autobiography that the primary objective of his return was to raise funds for a youth center he had established. Though he was never able to achieve his desired fight with Tyson, his return was collectively a successful one, winning 24 straight fights and earning a shot at Undisputed Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield.
As expected, the faster, more athletic Holyfield dominated the 42-year-old Foreman.
Surprisingly, the challenger was able to remain on his feet until the the end of the fight and made sure Holyfield earned every right to his victory.
Foreman fought nine more times after that, even regaining the IBF and WBA Heavyweight Titles after knocking out Michael Moorer in the tenth round.
8. Mike Tyson vs. Frank Bruno II
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,370,000
Date: March 16, 1996
Mike Tyson made sure Frank Bruno's farewell fight was a memorable one.
The two first fought in 1989, when Tyson stopped Bruno in the fifth round.
Bruno recovered from his loss and won eight of his next nine fights, the single loss coming at the hands of an undefeated Lennox Lewis.
Bruno then got his opportunity at a rematch with Tyson in 1996 after he beat Oliver McCall by unanimous decision, earning himself the WBC Heavyweight Title, which he could then leverage to get a fight with Tyson.
Bruno's opportunity to exact revenge on Tyson was wasted, as Iron Mike did an even quicker job on Bruno than he did the first time around, opening up a cut above Bruno's left eye in the opening round. The fight was stopped in Round 3.
9. Manny Pacquiao vs. Shane Mosley
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,340,000
Date: May 7, 2011
After another round of negotiations with pay-per-view king Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao signed on for a fight with Mayweather's then-latest victim, Shane Mosley.
The results of Pacquiao and Mayweather's outings against Mosley were congruent, both fighters took Sugar Shane to the final bell and both won by unanimous decision.
Pacquiao's routing victory was a surprise to no one; Mosley has not looked the same ever since his loss to Mayweather, while Pacquaio has been on a phenomenal 14-fight winning streak since 2005.
Mosley had only one fight in between and that was against Sergio Mora, which surprisingly ended in a draw.
10. Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz (Tied)
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,250,000
Date: September 17, 2011
With pieces to the Manny Pacquiao puzzle once again failing to fall into place in 2011, Floyd Mayweather moved on to another lucrative bout against a powerful young champion that oozed with superstar potential.
Victor Ortiz was coming off a Fight of the Year victory over then WBC Welterweight Champion Andre Berto; the wire-to-wire battle involved knockdowns on both sides. It was clear however, that Ortiz was able to consistently rally and dictate the tempo against Berto, connecting on a number of high-motor flurries that the champion could not keep up with.
With Ortiz taking claim to the title, Mayweather, who was returning from another extended absence from the sport found him to be the perfect alternative to Pacquiao.
Ortiz was also a southpaw, a champion and was much younger and bigger than Pacquiao, making the bout a point f interest for boxing fans across the world. Many speculated that this could be a form of tune-up for Mayweather to prepare for match against Pacquiao.
Though those speculations would not grow into anything more, Mayweather managed to take the win over Ortiz anyway.
The more experienced Mayweather skillfully out-boxed Ortiz from the first bell, making the young champion miss and pay with every defensive opening.
In the fourth round, the desperate Ortiz rallied, pushing Mayweather towards the ropes, then jumped at him head-first, cutting Mayweather's lower lip on the headbutt.
Realizing what he had done, Ortiz hugged Mayweather apologetically and kissed him on his right cheek.
Referee Joe Cortez stopped the action to dock a point from Ortiz.
After the deduction had been made clear to the judges, Cortez signaled for the fighters to resume the bout.
Perhaps still reeling from prior confusion, Ortiz took Cortez's signal as a sign to again hug Mayweather. Mayweather took advantage of the opening and connected with two flush shots, a check left hook and a straight right hand, sending Ortiz onto the canvas.
Mayweather won by way of knockout, once again reiterating the most important rule in all of boxing: protect yourself at all times.
10. Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya (Tied)
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,250,000
Date: December 6, 2008
"The Golden Boy" Oscar De La Hoya had finally lost his luster and never was it more apparent than the last time he would lace up his gloves—a knockout loss to surging Filipino welterweight star, Manny Pacquiao.
Coming off a rocky past six fights, it seemed the time was right for the former champion and successful promoter to call it a career.
With tough losses to the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley coming within one-bout interval of each other sandwiched by wins over Felix Strum, Ricardo Mayorga and Stevie Forbes, De La Hoya was a man on his last legs.
But as a former Olympic champion who represented the pride of two nations, De La Hoya had to go out with one last challenge.
Unfortunately, that hurrah came in the form of Manny Pacquiao.
Pacquiao was on a eight-bout winning streak, with seven of those victories coming over Mexican nationals, earning him the moniker, "Mexicutioner."
Though De La Hoya would be fighting out of the United States, his Mexican roots had always remained a pride in his corner.
Would De La Hoya put a stop to Pacquiao's trail of Mexican blood.
Despite the nationalistic fervor surrounding his opponent, Pacquiao went on to dominate the fight from the get-go, connecting on combination after combination.
A jaded, worn-out Oscar De La Hoya couldn't seem to find a decent rhythm.
After a punishing eight rounds, De La Hoya returned to his corner only to find that he would not be allowed to carry on.
Pacquiao would go on to win six more fights, stretching his streak which is yet to be snapped to 14 straight victories.
Until the very end, at least, De La Hoya was a blockbuster hit.
10. Manny Pacquiao vs. Miguel Cotto (Tied)
Estimated PPV Buys: 1,250,000
Date: November 14, 2009
Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto were supposed to be the perfect formula for an explosive, tightly-contested, action-filled fight.
The styles were somewhat similar, both highly-active on offense and capitalized on aggressive attacks inside.
Both fighters had fantastic resumes, with Cotto extinguishing opponents like Paul Malignaggi, Zab Judah, Shane Mosley and Joshua Clottey, while Pacquiao had a long list of Mexican stars under his belt plus back-to-back knockout victories over Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton.
Though the fight was sanctioned as a title-bout at the welterweight division (147-pound limit), Pacquiao's camp insisted that Cotto fight at a catch-weight of 145 pounds.
This seemed to have affected the slightly larger Puerto Rican fighter, as he was thoroughly beaten throughout the entire encounter.
Cotto was knocked-down twice―in the third and fourth rounds respectively―and found himself significantly bloodied up entering the latter rounds of the fight.
As Pacquiao continued to assert himself in the attack, Cotto couldn't seem to find an answer to any of the advances, prompting referee Kenny Bayless to stop the fight with 1 minute and 25 seconds left in the final round.
After the fight, Cotto returned to his comfortable 154-pound division and won the WBA Light Middleweight Title against Yuri Foreman and defended it twice agaisnt Ricardo Mayorga and Antonio Margarito.
Cotto is set to participate in his third attempt to defend his title against Floyd Mayweather, who moved up in weight for the fight on May 5, 2012.
Speculation: Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto
Date: May 5, 2012
With barely a week until their encounter, Pay-Per-View King Floyd Mayweather and reigning WBA Light Middleweight Champion Miguel Cotto are sure to turn some heads their way come their Cinco De Mayo match up.
The odds are once again in Mayweather's favor, seeing as he has been through a parallel situation in the past. Mayweather vs. De La Hoya, which holds the top spot on this list, was held on the same day and venue and had the same weight-class title on the line.
Though Cotto has two career losses to his name, Mayweather has stated that he looks at his Puerto Rican opponent as an undefeated fighter, seeing as that those only two losses came at the hands of Antonio Margarito―whom many suspected to have used illegal hand wraps loaded with plaster and Manny Pacquiao, who fought Cotto at a 145-pound catch-weight wherein Cotto couldn't cope with the changes from his walking-around weight of 154.
With the fight taking place in Mayweather's familiar territory at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, the question as to whether Cotto can win a fight of this magnitude outside of the confines of Madison Square Garden (where he is undefeated) remains to be seen. Cotto's only two defeats also took place in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The fight should be a thrilling one, with the ever consistent Mayweather involved and with a rejuvenated Cotto, who just recently struck down his nightmares of Margarito in December of 2011.
Seeing as Mayweather's last three fights have all sold upward of a million Pay-Per-View units and Cotto becoming an extremely hot ticket, this fight will surely contend to be one of the biggest Pay-Per-View events in history.
The only question now is where will it place amongst the all-time greats?
For more sports talk, follow me on Twitter: @CarloHerrera