Floyd Mayweather enjoyed sporting success like few before him in boxing and became the single most powerful figure in earning potential throughout the decade. Perhaps in any era.
The boxer and the brand built simultaneously thanks to his ‘bad boy’ reputation, unbeaten record and a distinctive defensive style, developed over the years. He was unique, brilliant – an artist who belongs in the top 10 greatest boxers all time.
He also marketed himself superbly. Leaving the sport unbeaten at 50-0 – although there is a proposed comeback in 2020 – simply capped off an incredible 19-year career which saw him amass world championship titles in five weight divisions.
At an event at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena in 2018, Mayweather told me something of his motivations. “It was a very long journey but I’ve had a very strong team and people who believed in me,” he said. “My grandmother believed, my father believed, both of my uncles believed. My mother believed. But before anyone believed in me I had to believe in myself. I had to push myself.”
His impregnability as a boxing master, and his unparalleled use of social media to underline his brand, established him as a marketing force of nature, and one who operated at the pinnacle of elite sport for over a decade, just as the internet exploded. Without the burgeoning use of social media, ‘Money’ Mayweather would never have become so rich, so decorated, such a colossus in the sporting arena.
Mayweather’s reach has also sustained the entire sport for the last 10 years. Streetwise and smart, Mayweather exists as an operator on the factory floor, yet also in the boardroom, showing impeccable timing both inside and outside the ring.
Over time, Mayweather generated approximately $23 million in pay-per-view buys and $42 billion in revenue, surpassing the likes of Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao.
For a decade, he has brought in a residual earning capacity for the city of Las Vegas which is unlikely ever to be matched. It literally runs into billions and billions of dollars. Mayweather has been involved in the four biggest pay-per-view boxing events of all time, against Pacquiao, De La Hoya, Saul Alvarez and Conor McGregor.
The event pitching Mayweather against Filipino Pacquiao in 2015, called ‘The Fight Of The Century’, grossed close to $700m, epitomising the depth and reach of the fame of these two men. Those who hated Mayweather at first, with his crass outbursts and rude ebullience, have often ended up admiring him for his artistry and his ability to do it his way.
Spend time around Mayweather and his charisma is tangible. He can turn it on – the smile, the focus – but that can change to something wilder, and more emotional, in an instant. That is intriguing in itself.
It is one of many ways in which he stands comparison with Muhammad Ali, another rebellious anti-hero who navigated a path to the top of his profession abiding by a mantra of ‘hard work and dedication’.
Like Ali, Mayweather transcends his sport in so many ways, and dominated his era.