How Floyd Mayweather became sport's biggest one-man brand

So wrote Floyd Mayweather on his Instagram account late last month, pictured on his private jet with, in front of him, twenty-five stacks of 100-dollar bills, about his upcoming megabucks, mega-hyped Las Vegas fight with UFC star Conor McGregor. Definitive Mayweather - Mayweather the Brand. Brash, boastful and arrogant, as befitting one of the greatest fighters the world has seen, who has built his image on being the man you would love to see lose, but who never does. But Mayweather is also a man who has built a business empire around that image which, in concept and scale, is unparalleled among sport’s star names.Their stories and business models are familiar. Big salaries and big endorsements. Take the cheques and let others – team owners, broadcasters, sponsors – take the risk. But also the upside.For the first half of his career, Mayweather was on this well-trodden path. Part of Top Rank’s stable of fighters, he took his cheques, beat all comers, and made his name, his pay-per-view debut coming in 2004.But then, in 2006, he pivoted, turning down the highest purse of his career - $8million - and buying himself out of his Top Rank contract for $750,000 to become a free agent.

And he changed his nickname from ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd to Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather.

Many have speculated what it was that prompted this change of direction. His violent, deprived, childhood. A deep distrust of the sporting establishment caused by his disputed, controversial loss in the semi-final of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – the last fight he lost. What he saw and learnt at Top Rank.

Whatever it was, it worked.

He set up his own boxing promotional firm, Mayweather Promotions. He made $25million from his 2007 fight against Oscar De La Hoya, which smashed previous revenue and pay-per-view records.

But most importantly, he had control.

Over the next ten years, through thirteen fights, two retirements, two returns, 87 days in jail, Mayweather has taken his career earnings alone to $700 million, the vast majority of it since he bought himself out of Top Rank, and broken every boxing financial record.

Of the top ten highest-grossing fights in history, Mayweather has been involved in seven. The other three fights in that list are all at heavyweight level, widely perceived as boxing’s top draw. Wrong. Mayweather punches above his weight as a marketer too.

His legendary 2015 fight against Manny Pacquiao alone generated more than $600 million and is the highest-grossing one-day sporting event ever.

And at the centre of it all Mayweather has been both fighter and ringmaster, highly reminiscent of F1’s former ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone in taking a cut of any and every revenue stream: broadcasting, ticketing, merchandising, sponsoring, catering – everything.

Hence his take from the Pacquiao fight alone of $240 million, and his monopoly over recent years of another title, that of the highest-paid athlete on the planet.

As a marketer, in terms of dollars generated, he has no equal in sport.

So it may not be long before, as he said last month in Brooklyn on one of the stops to promote the upcoming McGregor fight, that 'They’re gonna talk about this business move at Harvard.'

He also delights in firing back at his critics, among whose many allegations is that he Mayweather cannot read. His response? He can count – in Benjamins.

And he’s going to see a lot more of them before he’s done. Starting on August 26th.

This article originally appeared in the Daily Telegraph here.