Boxing purses are growing exponentially year over year and the bubble it is creating has eerily many comparisons to the housing bubble crisis of 2008 that caused the great recession after careful examination. Purses have grown two to three-three fold overnight seemingly, or seven-fold in the case of GGG and Canelo. Below is a look at the year over year increase in purses for the sports biggest fighters
Average Fighter Pay Increase
718% Gennadiy Golovkin
677% Canelo Alvarez
567% Deontay Wilder
222% Terence Crawford
The bubble that was inevitably going to burst didn’t appear out of thin air. In June 2017 ESPN preemptively, snatched Top Rank from HBO, bringing big-time boxing back to the worldwide leader in sports. The impact of this seemingly small deal changed the way we viewed boxing as less than a year later HBO officially announced its complete departure from boxing, ending an amazing 45 year in dominating the sweet science. The way and the amount of boxing we the people consumed was going to be forever changed and the rise of streaming services was upon us. DAZN shortly thereafter struck a deal with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom. The newcomers went all in giving the massive contracts to the likes of not just Canelo and GGG but started paying above and beyond top dollar for any fight they could get their hands on. PBC, which was paying what was considered, exorbitant purses just two years prior are now seemingly “underpaying” their fighters.
Purses needed to come down, or like the 2008 housing bubble, it was going to explode and the networks and OTT services were going to pull out quicker then small-town gossip spreads. There was no new demand for boxing, this wasn’t boxing’s version of the Michael Jordan era which grew the sport to new heights both domestically and internationally or the McGeoiwre-Sosa home run chase of 1998 that reinvigorated an entire generation of baseball fans. Boxing hasn’t seen any real new infusion of fans or interest in the sport. It remains a niche sport with a very, very loyal but small fan base. This is not a knock on fighters but there’s nothing organically that would cause purses to rise, just like housing prices in the 2000s. There was no rhyme or reason for the increase. If boxing was a stock on the NYSE, it would be time to short the heck out of it. No resentment to the fighters they deserve every penny they get, however, the interest in boxing and money just isn’t there to sustain that type of lavish prize money.
With boxing on the ropes, the pandemic is going to organically cause fighters to accept smaller purses. Big named fighters like Keith Thurman, Jo Jo Diaz, Jamel Herring, and David Benavidez have acknowledged this and said they would accept smaller purses if they had to fight in front of no fans. Just as quickly as fighters got accustomed to making much larger purses they are going to have to accept that purses are going to shrink.
This is going to create either one of two scenarios. Either, fighters get use to accepting smaller purses and when fans return to venues, they will continue to accept smaller purses then they had received and there will be a new lower baseline for fighter pay, and the sport is saved in the way, as the bubble never needed to burst. Or, fighters will want the big paydays that had gotten used to in 2018-2019 and the only way to get those grandiose purses and again is to make bigger and better fights. If Jermall Charlo wants multi-million paydays, which he deserves, he may not able to fight the Dennis Hogans of the world and may have to work across the table and fight Demetrius Andrade and Billy Joe Saunders level fighters. So, in a strange way, the pandemic somehow saved boxings inevitable bubble from bursting or it’s going to force the hand of fighters and promoters in the future to make the best fights that people want to see.