Just what are the top 15 highest-grossing gate receipts in Las Vegas boxing history?
A list of these great matches should offer us a glimpse into the kinds of fighters boxing fans really want to see. It also wouldn't hurt one bit to go on a trip down memory lane.
Even if the much-anticipated Manny Pacquiao vs. Floyd Mayweather on May 2nd eventually vaults up these rankings, we simply cannot forget these other fights which left a long and lasting impression.
Take for example, the second Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson fight in 1997—the infamous ear-biting scandal. Now, who wouldn't pay top dollar to see something like that?
On the other hand, if people want to talk about boxing, Las Vegas is the place to begin.
HBO senior VP of sports operations and PPV Mark Taffet told Bleacher Report's Jonathan Snowden in Oct. 2014 why nothing beats the glitz and glamor of Las Vegas boxing:
"The marquee lights of the Las Vegas strip became synonymous with big-time boxing. It created a mystique that could not be replicated anywhere. It's added to the larger-than-life image of big boxing events."
For his part, Dan Horgan says only New York City rivals Las Vegas as a boxing mecca in his 2007 book,"Bringing Back Boxing: A Young Journalist's Attempt To Revive The Sweet Science":
"Everyone knows that Las Vegas, Nevada is the boxing capital of the world. A site of gambling galore, Vegas is the home of countless mega fights -- all of which generate mega bucks for casinos.
In modern America, however, very few areas other than Las Vegas have concentrated boxing fans. Southern California, Providence, RI, and Detroit, MI, stand out as some of boxing's bigger hotspots, but perhaps nowhere in the U.S. today (outside of Vegas) is there similar passion about the sweet science than in New York City."
Nobody can dispute Taffet and Morgan's assertions. Las Vegas is the place to go to if you're a boxing fan or aficionado. That being said, make sure to save up for Pacquiao vs. Mayweather (if you're lucky enough to get a ticket).
For the purposes of this article, we will rank these Las Vegas fights simply according to their respective gate receipts.
15 Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Shane Mosley (5/1/2010), $11,032,100
A possible fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Shane Mosley was brewing in matchmakers' minds after the former's bout with Juan Manuel Marquez in Sept. 2009.
Back then, Mayweather and Mosley got into a heated shoving match. After the situation defused, Mosley was about to build up his upcoming match in January 2010 against Andre Berto. However, Berto had to pull out because several members were affected by the earthquake in Haiti.
Mayweather vs. Mosley then became a reality. Their non-title, Welterweight fight was billed "Who R U Picking?" with the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas as the venue. Mayweather was a 1:4 favorite.
Mosley got off to a strong start, pummeling Mayweather with several powerful right hands in Round two. Mayweather got right back into it in the next two rounds, staggering Mosley in the fourth. Mosley would never threaten again.
Mayweather pulled off the unanimous decision victory to up his record to 41-0. Mosley slipped to 46-6.
14 Joe Calzaghe Vs. Bernard Hopkins (4/19/08), $11,636,400
Joe Calzaghe vs. Bernard Hopkins pitted two powerful punchers with 32 knockouts each for the latter's The Ring Light Heavyweight Title.
The build-up to the fight dates back seven years from its actual date of April 19th, 2008. In 2001, Hopkins believed Calzaghe eluded him after Don King's "Middleweight tournament" where Hopkins won three title belts. However, Calzaghe said this is not true.
After Hopkins beat Winky Wright on July 21st, 2007 to retain his The Ring Tight Heavyweight title belt, he challenged Calzaghe. Six months after the Wright bout, Hopkins' next title defense against Calzaghe was confirmed with the venue as the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Hopkins knocked down Calzaghe with a right hand in the first round, causing a small cut on his nose. Referee Joe Cortez eventually had to warn both fighters for punching behind the head in the ensuing rounds.
Hopkins claimed Calzaghe hit him with two low blows in the 10th and 11th rounds. Nonetheless, Calzaghe would pull off the split-decision victory and capture Hopkins' title.
13 Manny Pacquiao Vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III (11/12/11), $11,648,300
Not only was Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez III the former's return to HBO, it was also the latter's chance to even things up in their heated rivalry. The two legends first squared off in 2004 in a fight that ended in a draw. In that fight, some fight observers thought Marquez won despite getting knocked down three times.
Their much-anticipated rematch happened on March 15, 2008 with Pacquiao gaining the upper hand with a split-second decision win. In this match, they got to settle the score for the WBO Welterweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The first round was a slow one. The action picked up in Round two when Marquez landed several body shots and uppercuts. The two traded powerful right hands in the third round. Marquez has arguably his best round of the trilogy in the fifth when he rocked Pacquiao with a shot to the head.
Pacquiao tried to counter Marquez's theatrics with his superior footwork the rest of the way. The final round saw both men being tentative. Pacquiao ended up winning by a close majority decision. Some of Marquez's fans protested vehemently by throwing debris into the ring. Their outburst went for naught as Pacquiao threw 142 more punches and landed 38 more than Marquez.
12 Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Miguel Cotto (5/5/12), $12,000,150
Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Miguel Cotto was billed as "Ring Kings" with the WBA Super and WBC Diamond Light Middleweight titles on the line.
Many fight fans were wondering who Mayweather would take on next. They thought eight-division champion Manny Pacquiao would be next on his radar. Indeed, Mayweather took to Twitter to call out Pacquiao. The two sides couldn't agree on the fight venue and revenue split, so the bout was called off.
As for Cotto, this was his first fight with Golden Boy Promotions. His contract with Top Rank expired after he disposed of Antonio Margarito in 1o rounds on December 3rd, 2011.
The Mayweather vs. Cotto fight was to be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Mayweather dictated the tempo in Round 1, before Cotto landed a hard combo in the next round, only for Mayweather to counter with a left uppercut.
The judges gave Rounds 6 and 8 to Cotto but Mayweather won the others. In the end, Mayweather won by a comfortable unanimous decision.
11 Bernard Hopkins Vs. Oscar De La Hoya (9/18/04), $12,782,560
Bernard Hopkins was about to make boxing history at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
True enough, his Middleweight unification title bout against Oscar De La Hoya on September 18th, 2004 was dubbed as "History." Hopkins' WBA, WBC, IBF and The Ring Middleweight belts, as well as De La Hoya's WBO Middleweight crown were all on the line.
This was just De La Hoya's second fight in the Middleweight ranks. Aside from Hopkins' titles, he also wanted to end "The Executioner's" undefeated 11-year reign in the division. The favored Hopkins was set to make around $10 million while De La Hoya would take home around $25 million.
The fight was mostly a defense-oriented one through the first eight rounds. Then, without warning, Hopkins unleashed a powerful left look to De La Hoya's liver in the ninth. De La Hoya crumpled to the canvas with referee Kenny Bayless counting him out.
It was the first time De La Hoya had ever been knocked out in his pro career.
"My game plan was to keep moving and watch out for that right hand, and it was working," Oscar said after the fight. "I put up a good fight but he just caught me."
10 Felix Trinidad Vs. Oscar De La Hoya (9/18/99), $12,949,500
Another Oscar De La Hoya bout is one of Las Vegas' all-time highest grossers.
As the year 2000 was just four months away, his fight against Felix "Tito" Trinidad on September 18th, 1999 was billed as "The Fight of the Millennium." This was a unification title bout for the WBC and IBF Welterweight titles.
Just how big a fight was this? Both Trinidad and De La Hoya were 26 years old, undefeated and "ranked in everybody's pound-for-pound top three," per ESPN's Eric Raskin.
Raskin then summarizes how the mega-fight went:
"For the first eight, maybe nine rounds, however, De La Hoya was boxing as masterfully as he ever had before or would again.
But Trinidad never stopped plowing forward, and if he was being exposed as relatively one-dimensional, he was showing appropriate doggedness to accompany that dimension. He stuck with his game plan. And De La Hoya deviated from his."
Trinidad won by a controversial majority decision. Not only did the fight haul in almost $13 million in gate receipts, it also established a record 1.4 million pay-per-view buys for a non-Heavyweight bout.
9 Mike Tyson Vs. Peter McNeeley (8/19/95), $13,965,600
Mike Tyson's fight against a virtual unknown by the name of Peter McNeeley on August 19th, 1995 was his first after a four-year hiatus, due to his legal troubles.
McNeeley entered the bout with a sterling 36-1 record, knocking out Frankie Hines in record fashion four months earlier (just six seconds into the first round). Tyson wasn't too shabby himself with a 41-1 mark, the only blemish coming at the hands of James "Buster" Douglas in 1990.
Tyson floored McNeeley with a right hook just 10 seconds into the contest. Tyson dropped McNeeley again less than 20 seconds later, prompting the latter's manager, Vinnie Vecchinone, to enter the ring and stop the fight. Tyson won by disqualification.
8 Evander Holyfield Vs. Mike Tyson I (11/9/96), $14,150,700
It was about time Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield and "Iron Mike" Tyson squared off.
These two Heavyweight legends were on a collision course after Tyson won Bruce Seldon's WBA heavyweight title on September 7th, 1996 via a first round knockout. The odds were not in Holyfield's favor—he was coming off an embarrassing, eighth-round knockout loss to Riddick Bowe before beating Bobby Czyz.
His fight against Tyson was hailed as "Finally" with the MGM Grand Garden as the venue.
ESPN's Dan Rafael describes how the superfight, which he billed as sixth-best of the ESPN era, went:
"In an action-packed fight, Holyfield mostly dominated. In fact, Holyfield bullied the bully. Although Tyson wobbled him with an uppercut in the fifth round, Holyfield dropped Tyson to his rear end with a left hook in the sixth round, the same round in which an accidental head butt (Tyson claimed it was intentional) opened a cut over Tyson's left eye."
Holyfield then pummeled Tyson into submission in Rounds 10 and 11. Referee Mitch Halpern stepped in during the latter round to end Tyson's misery. Holyfield won by technical knockout.
7 Evander Holyfield Vs. Mike Tyson II (6/28/97), $14,277,200
The Evander Holyfield Vs. Mike Tyson rematch on June 28th, 1997 will go down in boxing history as arguably the fight with the most insane ending. After Tyson (45-2) lost his WBAHheavyweight title to Holyfield (33-3) via an 11-round TKO loss seven months earlier, he was out for blood—literally.
Holyfield landed several powerful blows in the first round, the most notable of which was a right uppercut-left hook combo that staggered Tyson.
Holyfield then accidentally headbutted Tyson in Round 2, opening up a gash above Tyson's right eye. Referee Mills Lane didn't deduct a point from Holyfield, which angered Tyson and his corner.
Tyson charged into Holyfield at the beginning of the third round without his mouthpiece. After Tyson returned to his corner to get the mouthpiece, he landed several blows which rocked Holyfield. The two went toe-to-toe as the round was about to end before Tyson did the unthinkable.
He bit off a chunk of Holyfield's ear after he spit out his mouthpiece with the two in a clinch.
After the fight was delayed for a few minutes, a ringside physician cleared Holyfield to return. He got into another clinch with Tyson, who bit off a bigger chunk of his left ear. Mills disqualifies Tyson.
As a result, the Nevada State Athletic Commission revoked Tyson's boxing license and fined him a whopping $3 million, according to Slam! Boxing.
6 Manny Pacquiao Vs. Oscar De La Hoya (12/6/08), $14,380,300
For all intents and purposes, Manny Pacquiao vs. Oscar De La Hoya in December of 2008 was a superfight pitting a five-division champion against a six-division champion.
Despite De La Hoya getting up in age (35), he was still a potent force. In order to make the 147-pound weight limit against Pacquiao, he had to go down one weight division from Light Middleweight for the second straight fight. On the other hand, Pacquiao, then the WBC Lightweight champ and considered as the world's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, had to move up two weight divisions.
The fight was billed "The Dream Match" with the MGM Grand Garden Arena as the venue.
ESPN's Dan Rafael describes how Pacquiao, five years De La Hoya's junior, won the fight:
"Pacquiao was a master, strafing De La Hoya with brutal straight lefts all night. His speed was impressive against the statue-like De La Hoya, the 35-year-old Golden Boy whose pretty face was bruised and battered when the carnage was over.
It got so bad for De La Hoya that in the seventh round, Pacquiao connected on 45 of his power shots, the most ever recorded by CompuBox in the 31 De La Hoya fights it has tracked."
De La Hoya was unable to continue at the start of the ninth round. Pacquiao won by technical knockout.
5 Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Marcos Maidana II (9/13/14), $14,899,150
The Floyd Mayweather, Jr. vs. Marcos Maidana rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 13th, 2014 was dubbed "Mayhem," with the WBC and WBA Welterweight titles at stake.
Mayweather won their first fight four months earlier via majority decision. Madiana wanted nothing less than revenge and the distinction of giving Mayweather his very first loss.
From the get-go of Mayweather's second fight against Maidana, Bleacher Report's Joseph Zucker dubbed the Welterweight champion "a hive of activity, constantly on the move." Maidana tried to keep up with him during the early rounds, but to no avail.
Maidana's first big moment came at the bell ending Round 3 when he caught Mayweather with a hard right. Maidana continued the onslaught in Round 4, but Mayweather regained momentum in the next round.
For a moment, memories of Tyson vs. Holyfield II in 1997 resurfaced when Mayweather claimed Maidana bit his left hand during the eighth round.
From there, low blows and excessive clinching were the norms, though Mayweather still won with an easy unanimous decision. He ran his record to 47-0 while taking home a fight purse of at least $32 million, according to ESPN.
Maidana fell to 35-5 and earned $3 million.
4 Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Marcos Maidana I (5/3/14), $15,024,400
Before their first bout on May 3rd, 2014, Madiana had an impressive 35-3 record with 31 knockouts, but he had never faced anybody of Mayweather's (45-0, 26 KOs) caliber.
This fight was hailed as "The Moment" and held at Las Vegas' MGM Grand Garden Arena. The WBC and WBA Welterweight title belts were on the line.
Maidana controlled the early going, but Mayweather turned the tide in his favor in the latter rounds despite getting cut by an accidental head-butt in Round 4. Maidana argued Mayweather threw several elbows during that round.
The Ring Magazine's Michael Rosenthal describes how the rest of the fight went:
"Mayweather, the consummate pro, calmly weathered the early onslaught, adjusted (surprise!) and dominated the second half of the fight by landing the cleaner, more precise punches for a hard-fought victory that wasn't as controversial as Maidana supporters might believe."
Despite Maidana landing 221 punches—the most of any Mayweather opponent—Rosenthal says "none of that mattered" to Mayweather, who showed everybody he's the true class of the Welterweight division.
3 Lennox Lewis Vs. Evander Holyfield II (11/13/99), $16,860,300
Lennox Lewis Vs. Evander Holyfield II was billed as "Unfinished Business" between two Heavyweight greats with the WBA, WBC, IBF and IBO championships at stake.
The two fought to a controversial draw eight months earlier—one judge saw it 116-113 for Lewis, another had it 115-113 for Holyfield while the last one had it 115 apiece. To settle the score, the sanctioning bodies ordered a rematch be scheduled at the soonest possible time.
Lewis seized control of the start of the bout, winning the first three rounds. Holyfield did land a powerful right hand during the final seconds of Round 3.
Holyfield dictated the tempo in the fifth to seventh rounds. He and Lewis exchanged haymakers during the last 20 seconds of the latter round. Lewis would win Rounds 8 through 11 with the 12th and last round just about even.
In the end, Lewis won by unanimous decision finally settling the questions from their first fight.
2 Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Oscar De La Hoya (5/5/07), $18,419,200
Floyd Mayweather, JR. Vs. Oscar De La Hoya on May 5th, 2007 was a Cinco De Mayo special at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas for the WBC Super Welterwight title.
The fight also had a juicy sub-plot: Mayweather, Jr. against his father, Floyd, Sr. The two of them had been estranged for years. Floyd, Sr. had been De La Hoya's trainer since 2000. He demanded a pay of $2 million to train De La Hoya.
"If they want me to work against my son, then they're going to have to pay me," Floyd, Sr. told The Las Vegas Review-Journal (via BoxRec.com). De La Hoya then said the elder Mayweather's demand "had no impact whatsoever" in his decision to hire Freddie Roach.
Mayweather ran his undefeated record to 38-0 (24 KOs) after a close split-decision win over De La Hoya, who fell to 38-5 (30 KOs). Mayweather landed 207 punches to De La Hoya's 122. Mayweather also connected on 138 power punches to De La Hoya's 82.
The fight earned the distinction of having the biggest payday in boxing history: a combined $77 million. De La Hoya earned $52 million while Mayweather took home $25 million.
1 Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Vs. Saul Alvarez (9/14/13), $20,003,150
The fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. (45-0, 26 KOs) and Saul Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) was an encounter pitting two undefeated boxing superstars for the WBC and WBA Super Welterweight titles at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
It was also billed as "The One" for good reason—fans were about to find out who the true Welterweight king was.
On this night, it would be Mayweather.
"At times the fight looked like nothing more than a $100 million sparring session," says The Ring Magazine's Tim Smith. "Alvarez, a 23-year-old Mexican icon, was swinging for the fences, but he whiffed more than he connected."
Alvarez told ESPN's Dan Rafael through an interpreter how Mayweather beat him:
"I couldn't connect. He's very elusive, intelligent and has a lot of experience. I honestly couldn't find him. In the late rounds I was frustrated. I recognize that he beat me. I tried to connect on him, but I just couldn't."
Mayweather, who out-punched Alvarez 232-117 per CompuBox statistics (via ESPN), won an easy majority decision. He also earned $41.5 million while Alvarez made a guaranteed $12 million.
Mayweather remained undefeated, sent the pro-Alvarez crowd unhappy and made a statement that he is the world's best pound-for-pound fighter.