LAS VEGAS - The first ticket has yet to be sold, but the richest fight in boxing history is getting richer by the day.
New estimates show Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s payoff for fighting Manny Pacquiao could easily be $180 million, up substantially from earlier predictions of $120 million. Pacquiao gets the short end of the purse, but even that is expected to be well over $100 million by the time everything is tallied up.
The money is staggering, though not exactly unexpected. Five years of waiting seem to have only piqued the public's demand for the one fight even casual fans of the sport want to see.
"For whatever it's worth, the buildup over these years has certainly enhanced the fight," promoter Bob Arum. "Everybody knows about it now, even people who don't follow boxing. Plus we have a good economy, unlike in 2009 when people were out of work and didn't have the money to spend."
Fans will certainly have to pay a price to see the May 2 welterweight title bout, especially those lucky enough to score a ticket inside the MGM Grand arena itself. Ticket prices there range from $1,500 in the upper deck to $7,500 at ringside -- and only a small percentage of the tickets will actually be put on public sale.
Arum said Tuesday the gate at the MGM alone will be more than $72 million, obliterating the previous live gate record of $20 million in Nevada set by Mayweather's 2013 fight with Canelo Alvarez. Though the MGM will provide some tickets for its biggest gamblers, Arum said even the celebrities who can normally get free tickets to sit ringside will have to pay full fare for the fight -- if they can get their hands on tickets at all.
Promoters announced a deal Tuesday with Sky Sports to televise the fight on pay-per-view in England and parts of Europe, part of another $35 million expected to come in from foreign rights. Add in another $10 million in sponsorships -- Tecate beer will be the main sponsor -- and the fight will gross more than $100 million before a single home in North America buys the pay-per-view.
Less certain is how many people will spend what is expected to be $100 or so for the pay-per-view in the U.S., but that could easily break records, too. Mayweather's 2007 fight with Oscar De La Hoya currently tops the charts with 2.44 million buys, but many think Mayweather-Pacquiao could do more than 3 million homes despite softness in the pay-per-view market in the last few years.
"That's the one element that's a mystery," Arum told The Associated Press. "It seems like it will break the record, but who really knows? Anyone who predicts the total pay-per-view is whistling in the dark."
Cable networks HBO and Showtime have yet to announce the pay-per-view price, saying they are still in negotiations with cable systems and satellite providers. Those negotiations are mostly about how the money will be divided between the broadcasters and the fight promoters, who historically have split revenues fairly equally.
With promoters holding the upper hand for this fight, though, that split could end up 65-35 in favor of the promotion. And if 3 million homes buy the fight at $100, that would mean about $200 million in revenue to Mayweather Promotions and Arum's Top Rank from pay-per-view alone.
Add in the other money and the two camps will have more than $300 million to divvy up. With Mayweather getting a 60-40 split, that would mean a purse of $180 million or more to Mayweather and $120 million or more to Pacquiao.
Both purses would dwarf the biggest ever in boxing, including the 2007 fight with Mayweather in which De La Hoya made a reported $52 million. Mayweather's biggest payday was against Alvarez, when he was guaranteed $41.5 million and may have made another $20 million off the pay-per-view sales.
"You get to this level where you're making nine figures in 36 minutes," Mayweather said at the fight press conference this month in Los Angeles, "and you have to be a winner."
Judging from the money on the table in this bout, it's hard to find a loser.