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Promoter: Anthony Joshua gets 85% of event profits when he fights

That’s not something you’ll see in a UFC environment.

Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz Jr. - Weigh-in Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Anthony Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) is one of boxing’s biggest stars, having regularly sold out massive sports stadiums in the United Kingdom over the past couple of years. This Saturday night, the unified heavyweight champion will make his United States debut against short notice underdog Andy Ruiz Jr (32-1, 21 KOs), in what is expected to be a packed Madison Square Garden in New York.

While this is hardly the fight anyone wanted, and the frustrations are mounting that the triumvirate of Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and Tyson Fury are destined not to fight each other in 2019, you can’t deny that all of these men are still going to make obscene amounts of money fighting demonstrably inferior opposition. Joshua in particular is one of the richest combat sports athletes at present.

In a feature article published on ESPN, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn revealed that “besides millions from his endorsements, including deals with apparel, sports drinks and aftershave companies, he is making no less than $20 million per fight.”

Among the other business revealings, also of note is how the Matchroom Boxing-Anthony Joshua relationship works whenever Joshua headlines pay-per-view events. Subtracting the usual costs, the percentage split of the profits between Matchroom and Joshua is overwhelmingly tilted in the fighter’s favor.

Hearn, who has grown close to Joshua, said their business relationship has been straightforward and relatively easy. Matchroom Boxing fighters who fight on pay-per-view --- Joshua-Ruiz will be on pay-per-view in the U.K., albeit in the wee hours of Sunday morning --- own their shows, and Matchroom takes a percentage of the profits. In the case of a Joshua fight, the split is typically about 85-15 in Joshua’s favor, Hearn said.

”When you’re a pay-per-view fighter, we will say here is the revenue. We will agree on the purse for the opponent, [budget] for the undercard,” Hearn said. “We know the other costs: venue, hotel, flights, sanction fees, drug testing, etc., etc. Now we’ve done [several pay-per-view] fights together so we know the money to the dime virtually. And all the revenue -- which is the gate, pay-per-view, international TV, sponsorships -- the only variable really is the pay-per-view. And whatever the net profit of the show is all yours, and we take our percentage.

”When the fight is finished, [Joshua] will receive a complete detailed analysis of every invoice, every cost. He has the right to audit. He has his lawyer, his accountant, and they’ll look at all the numbers. He knows, having done this model for seven or eight fights, what the numbers should be. If there’s one that stands out, he might say to me, how come that’s so high?”

This is also not exactly a unique set-up that Joshua has. At least for the “Golden Goose” boxers who are established draws, the promoter takes the lesser cut of the pie when taking in pay-per-view money. Court documents showed that Canelo Alvarez took 80% of the net profits for his 2016 fight vs. Amir Khan. It’s not known what the splits are now that he’s signed a $365 million deal with DAZN. As for Joshua, it must be noted that he is on a fight-by-fight deal with DAZN, but doesn’t have an actual long-term contract. There are, however, talks to make that reality.

Longtime promoter Lou DiBella told Bloody Elbow’s own John Nash that for (your traditional major American pay-per-views), “after the 50% cut by the cable providers the vast majority [of the remaining money] will go to the fighters. The exact percentage, however, “depends on the promoter.”

“The small percentage [that goes to the promoter] is a large amount of money,” DiBella added.

While the business models are not really like-for-like comparable, it really shows the distinctly different power structure for superstar boxers compared to superstar UFC fighters. Somehow I doubt that the UFC, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue they continue to accumulate on an annual basis, would ever agree to giving Conor McGregor or Jon Jones anything that is close to even 50-50, let alone 85-15 for a pay-per-view that they headline.

One can only wonder if Zuffa Boxing is going to operate the same way that other major boxing promoters do.

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