Forget Beckham’s millions, Manny and Money Mayweather show the hard old game is still a real box-office hit

After all the hullabaloo about David Beckham earning more than the gross national product of many third world countries, it turns out that he is not even the best paid sportsman on the planet.
Nor the second.

Those top two places belong – to the chagrin of those who condemn their sport as a throw-back to the dark ages – to boxers.

Floyd Mayweather is guaranteed at least US$90million (£58.94m) this year.BOX Manny Pacquiao has banked $57.3m (£37.52m) in the past 12 months.

Beckham, poor lad, raked in only $46m (£30.12m) in 2012. That is not enough to gain him a place in the top five most highly remunerated athletes in the world, even though he has nudged above Lionel Messi among the richest footballers.

These figures, compiled from Sports Illustrated’s analysis of the biggest earners in American sport and France Football’s review of the finances of the world game, make mockery of the repeated claims that boxing is dying.

The hard old game is thriving. The theory that it is being overtaken by the UFC in America does not chime with the main cable networks in the United States – Showtime and HBO – being locked in a bidding war as ferocious in its way as the boxing matches they are competing to broadcast.

And that is happening even while terrestrial giants CBS are entering the fray. BBC and ITV please take note.

While the Yanks are still waiting for another heavyweight champion – and hoping that knockout artist Deontay Wilder may be The One – they have the likes of Adrien Broner lighting up the lower divisions.

Also, with the Hispanic population growing more populous by the day, big fights involving Mexican and other Latin American fighters are putting the boom back in boxing over there.

This side of the Atlantic Carl Froch’s return of his epic re-match with Mikkel Kessler is putting prize-fighting back on pay-per-view. Meanwhile, a new wave of exciting young fighters keeps boxing thriving as the second favourite sport of the British male after football.

On mainland Europe, the domination of the heavyweight division by the Brothers Klitschko drives fisticuffs East and West.

Pacquiao, despite his shock KO by Juan Manuel Marquez, remains the standard bearer for the vibrant Asian scene and, this November, will drive the sport’s move into the potentially gigantic Chinese market by boxing in Macau.

Pay-per-view in the People’s Republic could even hoist Pacquiao above Mayweather in sport’s rich list.

The pre-eminence of these two is all the more remarkable given the competition from other sports whose stars, unlike boxers, have their income massively boosted by commercial endorsements.

The rise of Mayweather and Pacquiao has coincided with the fall of Tiger Woods, now economically as well as in public esteem.

Of course, take-home pay of $40.8m (£26.71m) is more than enough to pay the rent and the alimony. But at less than half of Mayweather’s income, that figure knocks him off the top of Sports Illustrated rankings for the first time in almost a decade – and down to 10th in our composite listing.

Beckham’s retirement has given rise to predictions that now, relieved of what his advisers might have come to regard as the time-wasting necessity of kicking a football, he can get down to the serious business of earning the dollar equivalent of £300million. That may be fanciful.

But if anything approaching that amount turns out to be accurate, the irony will be that he is no longer a sportsman

And while he continues to exploit his fame through the Brand Beckham myriad of marketing, advertising and endorsements, Money Mayweather and the PacMan will carry on earning virtually all their fortunes the hard way – in the ring.

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