The Forbes round up of Highest-Paid Athletes is out, and two boxers have topped the list: Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao are ranked #1 and #2 respectively. Their spots at the top prove the immense moneymaking potential of boxing, but also raise the question: How much will Saúl Canelo Alvarez be able to rise? Floyd’s retirement and Pacquiao’s fall from grace have left the Mexican redhead not only as the face of pugilism, but in a privileged position to lap up boxing fans’ insatiable thirst for action.
In 2014, Álvarez made $19.5 million through his fights, and $1.5 million in endorsements, putting him in the #66 slot on the Forbes list of Highest-Paid Athletes. However, last year Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao took all the attention –and money– with their mega fight of May 2015. Although it was a disappointing match, it landed both fighters, who were in last year of fighting, at the very top of money-making athletes.
Given his current situation in boxing, the top-earning spots might not be too far-fetched for a 25-year-old who hasn’t yet reached the peak of his career. After all, his 2014 earnings put him on par with Barcelona soccer player Luis Suarez, and out-earned soccer players like Mesut Ozil and Frank Lampard. But the most important thing for El Pelirrojo Peligroso, is that he has now become the face of the boxing and the doors are wide open for him to take a piece of the pie left by the American and Filipino boxers.
The top-earning spots might not be too far-fetched for a 25-year-old who hasn’t yet reached the peak of his career.
But the path to true international stardom – and money – will have to be a combination of talent and good management. As is well-known in the world of boxing, the best fighters aren’t always the top earners; Nicaraguan Roman Chocolatito González for example, is #1 in ESPN pound-per-pound list, but makes around 200k a fight, less than Canelo made when he was still a prospect.
Canelo’s huge popularity in Mexico and with Latino fans in the United States, makes him an obvious attractive face for sponsors looking to tap this particular market. As Tecate Marketing Director Gustavo Guerra explained in an interview, the Mexican is seen as the future of the boxing and as someone with huge promotional potential; the beer’s Born Bold campaign in fact, aims at launching the boxer into the mainstream American market – something essential if Canelo is going to make Mayweather/Pacquiao money. While, Floyd Mayweather reached unimaginable moneymaking heights without much help from sponsors, he did it in part thanks to his defensive/running style, and mostly by developing an arrogant and detestable persona inside and outside the ring – something incompatible with Canelo’s charm.
Support from sponsors and promotion companies can only get an athlete so far – the most important work has to be done at the gym and in the ring. Canelo still has many critics in the boxing world, and he’s far from gaining the respect Mayweather had. He is currently #7 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound ranking, and his main obstacle on the path to universal recognition will be Gennady Golovkin, an undefeated Olympic silver medalist who has been destroying every opponent he steps in the ring with, and who is currently #2 in the pound-for-pound list.
If Alvarez defeats Amir Khan on May 7th, it will symbolize the reconquista of one of the two biggest boxing dates, which was Mayweather’s in recent years, and also set up the stage for a fight against Golovkin in September, which will have a direct effect on pay-per-view buys and catapult the Mexican red head into becoming one of the highest-paid athletes in the world.