The Money and Mayhem Surrounding the Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight

Combined, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao stand to rake in more than $200 million from their May 2 bout.  |  Illustration by Jon Estrada

Combined, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao stand to rake in more than $200 million from their May 2 bout. | Illustration by Jon Estrada

In March, a cocktail waitress from New Jersey raised $1,500 on GoFundMe for a trip to Las Vegas for the May 2 boxing showdown between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. “I’m cute. I like free money. You donating or naw? Lol!” she wrote.

The crowd-funding campaign was at once ridiculous and genius. Because experiencing the latest “Fight of the Century” in Las Vegas isn’t going to come cheap. To paraphrase the lyrics of Wu-Tang Clan: Cash rules everything around May 2.

First, consider the hotel prices across the Valley, particularly on and around the Strip. Shortly after the fight was finally made official February 20, ESPN reported that rooms for May 2 at MGM Grand (the fight’s host venue) had gone from $190 per night to $705. Despite the rate spike, all 5,044 of MGM’s rooms quickly sold out.

Room searches for fight night at MGM Grand’s website have since referred visitors to other MGM Resorts-owned properties, including Aria (where—at press time—nightly rates start at $1,199), Vdara ($599) and the usually budget-friendly Circus Circus ($289). Other Strip hotels raised their rates, yet most properties are sold out for May 2. A mid-April search through all Caesars Entertainment-owned hotels yielded rooms only at Caesars Palace, starting at a cool $999—again, per night. And most places were insisting on at least a two-night minimum.

But let’s say you don’t want or need to stay on the Strip; you just want to watch the fight there. You’ll have to do so at an MGM-owned property, as the corporation controls the closed-circuit hotel-casino broadcast rights in Clark County. (This restriction does not apply to neighborhood establishments.) Entry into one of these closed-circuit viewing parties will start at $150, beating the previous record of $100 for Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez in September 2013. (National spots blog quipped that “this display of greed is a great example of why Vegas is called ‘Sin City,’” which might be true.)

If you’re not interested in being one of the expected 25,000 people to buy closed-circuit tickets, you could stay home and watch the fight on pay-per-view. Sadly, that’s still likely to make your wallet cry: To get the fight in HDTV, you’ll have to pony up $99.95 (plus tax)—a record pay-per-view price tag. If you want to live like it’s 1995, you can go for the standard-definition broadcast and save $10. Want to trim a few more bucks? Pick up an 18-pack of Tecate; the beer company paid $5.6 million to sponsor the fight and is offering a mail-in rebate of $15-$50. (Like you weren’t going to buy beer anyway!)

Then again, maybe watching Mayweather-Pacquiao on TV isn’t good enough. Maybe you’re determined to see the action in person—and to do so, you’re willing to forgo the down payment on that new house you’ve been eyeing. Well, about 500 tickets finally went on sale to the public April 23, with prices ranging from $1,500 to $10,000. And they were gone in less than two minutes. That’ll force you to the secondary market, where ticket aggregator shows tickets starting at $3,422—with floor seats as high as $344,000. The startling median ticket price of $7,984 shatters the previous record for a boxing match ($1,616 for Mayweather-Alvarez) and even the most recent Super Bowl ($3,290).

Now let’s say you’re an A-list celebrity—someone who always star-powers your way into big events. No way you’ll have to pry open your wallet to be among the 16,800 spectators inside the Grand Garden Arena, right? Wrong. “Nobody is going to get these tickets without paying for them,” Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum told ESPN Radio 1100-AM. To that effect, Arum says the live gate could reach $74 million. ESPN reports that the total money generated could “easily surpass” $400 million, doubling the record gross of $200 million for Mayweather-Alvarez.

So what do these crazy figures mean for the fighters? Mayweather and Pacquiao will spilt the pot 60/40, with Mr. Money Team getting the bigger haul. Forbes predicts each fighter will walk away with more than $100 million—and that’s for a maximum of 47 minutes of work (12 rounds at three minutes each, plus one-minute breathers between Rounds 1-12).

Makes you want to sprint to the nearest boxing gym and start a new career, doesn’t it? For $20, we’ll send you directions.