Floyd Mayweather Jr. smiles while taking on Marcos Maidana during their WBC/WBA welterweight unification fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 3, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Photograph by Harry How—Getty Images

Not counting endorsement deals

By Jonathan Chew
April 6, 2016

Floyd Mayweather Jr. was known as the world’s highest-paid athlete—but how much did the boxer earn for the actual work he put in?

Turns out, Mayweather earned more in one second of fighting in the ring last year than the average person makes annually, according to an analysis done by business research hub Expert Market. Mayweather took in around $65,972 per second of boxing, based on his earnings last year on 4,320 seconds of play, or $285 million. If you factor in endorsements, that number jumps to around $69,444 per second of boxing, or $300 million, according to Forbes estimates.

That would be more than an entire year’s income for the average household in the U.S., since the median household income was estimated to be $53,657 in 2014, as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Mayweather has since retired and gone into promotion, but other athletes who reaped big bucks last year for a second’s worth of work include MMA fighters Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton, and football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo:

How does that compare with the income from your usual white-collar jobs? It would surpass them by huge margins—a doctor, according to Expert Market, took home around $0.016 per second of work last year, while firefighters earned an average of just $0.0046 per second. That means a doctor would take about 47 days to earn what Mayweather takes home in one second of work.

Lest you think this is a sign of wealth inequality gone mad, there is an economic reason for the disparity: an athlete’s talent is relatively more scare compared to, say, the ability of a firefighter, and the market we live in assigns value based on how rare that commodity is. It is behind the age-old debate of why diamonds have a higher value than water—also known as the “paradox of value”—although some economists argue that this could be changing.

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