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Mayweather vs Pacquiao: Don King takes credit for ridiculous purses

Lee Cleveland Updated
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History was made as fight legends Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, boxing's best, finally faced each other in the ring on May 2.

Mayweather vs Pacquiao was the most lucrative fight in history and set many records, grossing 4.4-5 million pay-per-view buys. Moreover, Floyd and Manny earned roughly $200 million and $150 million, respectively, making them far and away the highest paid athletes in sports.

"I feel very good about the Mayweather–Pacquiao fight because that's the fruit of the tree that I planted," legendary promoter Don King, who is in Alabama for the WBC heavyweight showdown between Deontay Wilder and Eric Molina, told AL.com this week.

"It's making fighters worth something when everybody was just trying to exploit them, and they were at the bottom rung of the ladder and they would pay them anything yet they were the attraction."

"Things were perverted. The attraction is the most important. When you've got an attraction you know, you can promote that excitement."


"It's still the highest-paid sport to an athlete in the history of the world. That's what I had to turn it around from the lowest and not being paid to plant the tree that's bearing the fruit where a man makes $200 million in one night."

Don King is arguably the most controversial figure in boxing history and perhaps all of professional sports but his contributions to the sport are undisputedly legendary.

So, is Don King largely responsible for making boxing - at the highest level - such a lucrative vocation? After all, before he began promoting, fighters' purses were fairly modest.

Don will insist fighters' salaries were peanuts before he came on the scene.

Is it true?

While King certainly deserves some credit for boosting boxing's appeal and finding ways to get the public to pay more money for fight cards in comparison to other sporting events, elite-level fighters weren't exactly paid 'pennies' for their services prior to King's arrival.

Former heavyweight champion Joe Louis, for example, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 1940s to the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II. Adjusted to today's inflation rate, Louis gave away the equivalent of millions.

Top fighters were generally paid well but nowhere near the ridiculous purse sums the sport has experienced since the 1980s.

Arguably the most successful high-profile promoter ever, and in any field, some would call the flamboyant Don King a cross between J.R. Ewing and P.T. Barnum. Moreover, many assert he's an unscrupulous character who has used his charm and guile to ride a wave of success off the backs of others.

Although his level of integrity has come into question for the last 40 years, his contributions to the sport are monumental and big-time fighters, such as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, at least partially owe King a debt of gratitude.


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