Riyadh Newsflash: The purses for Saturday night’s world heavyweight championship rematch in Saudi Arabia are reported to be — Anthony Joshua $85million, Andy Ruiz Jnr $13m.
Joshua stood not just 6ft 6in tall but an estimated $60million fortune above the poverty line before he came to strike oil in the Arabian desert. Yet his pending bonanza is now but the fourth highest purse in ring history. Floyd Mayweather has obliterated all the records, if not quite broken the Bank of America.
Two hundred and seventy-five million dollars — spell it out, say it slowly — for giving UFC star Conor McGregor a boxing lesson. Before that, $180m for finally facing Manny Pacquiao, whose compensation for losing came to a comparatively meagre $120m.
McGregor, by the way, picked up the same $85m (£66m) which will give Joshua the heftiest pay-night ever for a British boxer.
Yet richer pickings await AJ in a fight against Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury next year for the undisputed world heavyweight title, if only he can avenge the monumental upset inflicted on him by Andy Ruiz Jnr in New York’s Madison Square Garden six months ago.
Joshua was humiliated by four knockdowns on his way to that seventh-round KO.
Generous consolation has come with the price Saudi Arabia has been willing to pay to exploit intense interest in this rematch to advertise the dramatic ruins of the ancient city of Diriyah — the Kingdom’s original capital — as a heritage tourist site.
Their successful bid to move the fight from Cardiff’s Principality Stadium to the temporary 16,000-seat arena that has risen from the dunes in only two months has funded the bulk of the purses. The DAZN digital TV streaming network in America has chipped in. More revenue will be forthcoming from the £24.95-a-pop Sky Sports Box Office coverage.
But it is the Saudi money for which the two combatants are most grateful. Joshua’s potential take increased en route from South Wales to the Middle East from $55m to $85m.
As a holder of dual Mexican-American citizenship, Ruiz was empowered to use the United States government’s warning against travel to Saudi to hike his share from $9m to $13m. Not, of course, that the two of them bank all that money.
Joshua puts his earnings into context, saying: ‘When you look at it, out of every hundred quid, a lot goes to the taxman and a lot to the trainers and the team. Before you know it, what you’re left with in reality is about 30 to 40 per cent.
Honestly, one of my main objectives in this sport was not to be owned. Not to be taken advantage of. It’s not easy in this sport. You put so much into it but before you know it your career is over.’
He reveals that he took pains from the start to protect his income from being ransacked by exploitative promoters such as He With The Electrified Hair who Mike Tyson, among others, accused of larceny on a grand scale.
Joshua says: ‘When I first met Eddie Hearn I asked him, “You’re not like Don King are you, Eddie?” When I came into boxing I heard all the stories of Larry Holmes having to get a bus home after a world title fight, Tyson losing a lot of his money, Evander Holyfield on hard times. And these are among the greatest.’
Joshua makes no apologies — nor should he — for maximising his revenue.
Although he cherishes the Olympic and world championships he has won and insists that wealth does not diminish his ambition or motivation by one iota, he explains: ‘The medals and the titles are important to me, but one day someone else will come up to take over the position they give you.
‘Today you have people opening doors for you and bringing coffees. But that isn’t meant for you personally, it’s for the position you hold. Don’t get too used to having the belts around your waist.’
Joshua has been criticised for approving Saudi Arabia as the venue for this fight but he says: ‘The decisions I’ve made have been as a professional man, not a professional boxer. I knew I was going to conduct myself as a business.’
Begrudge him not. By no means all prize fighters are cashing in big time. A recent survey found that the average income of professional boxers is £17,000 a year.
Pacquiao never forgets that his first purse — in 1995, at the age of 16, for a four-round decision win over one Edmund Enting Ignacio — was 100 Philippine pesos. That was the equivalent of two dollars.