Boxers, soccer players, racers take top eight highest-paid spots

ByJohn Mastroberardino ESPN logo
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

After a five-year wait, he made over $6 million per minute.

That was Floyd Mayweather's estimated haul from his May 2 welterweight title fight against Manny Pacquiao -- a bout that vaulted Money and Manny to the top of ESPN The Magazine's annual list of the highest-paid pro athletes.

Total revenue from the long-anticipated fight could be north of $500 million -- roughly equal to the 2014 gross domestic product of Tonga -- with Mayweather clearing somewhere around $250 million and Pacquiao, the former WBO champ, an estimated $150 million.

Barcelona's Lionel Messi ($56.3 million) and Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo ($50.2 million) remain the top-paid soccer players on the planet -- and third and fourth in the survey. Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel's decision to leave Red Bull for Ferrari resulted in a new contract with a base salary of $50 million, making the 27-year-old German the top-earning driver and fifth on the overall list. Fellow F1 competitors Fernando Alonso ($40 million) and Lewis Hamilton ($31 million), along with Zlatan Ibrahimovic ($35 million), the star forward of France's Ligue 1 Paris Saint-Germain squad, occupy spots six through eight.

Rounding out the survey's top 10 are two former Cy Young Award recipients: the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw ($31 million), the reigning back-to-back National League winner, and the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander ($28 million), the American League winner who has yet to play this season due to injury.

The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant ($23.5 million), who was limited to just 35 games this season, is the top basketball player at No. 21 and one of three NBA players in the top 25. Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden's $22,978,193 salary led all football players, though no NFL player cracked the top 25. In the NHL, the top earner was Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber, with a salary of $14 million. Serena Williams, the top female on the list, won seven tournaments in 2014, including the U.S. Open, which helped her earn $9.3 million in prize money for the year.

(a) estimated take for May 2, 2015 welterweight title bout.

-- Compiled by ESPN The Magazine Research

METHODOLOGY: Figures are annual gross salaries from current or most recent season, and 2015 prize money where applicable. Endorsements, appearance fees, sponsorships or other external income are not included. Salaries based on exchange rate at time of contract signing.