Forget Beckham's millions, Manny and Money Mayweather show the hard old game is still a real box-office hit.
After all the hullabaloo about David Beckham earning more than the gross national product of many third world countries, it turns out that he is not even the best paid sportsman on the planet.
Nor the second.
Those top two places belong – to the chagrin of those who condemn their sport as a throw-back to the dark ages – to boxers.
Floyd Mayweather is guaranteed at least US$90million (£58.94m) this year. Manny Pacquiao has banked $57.3m (£37.52m) in the past 12 months.
Beckham, poor lad, raked in only $46m (£30.12m) in 2012. That is not enough to gain him a place in the top five most highly remunerated athletes in the world, even though he has nudged above Lionel Messi among the richest footballers.
These figures, compiled from Sports Illustrated’s analysis of the biggest earners in American sport and France Football’s review of the finances of the world game, make mockery of the repeated claims that boxing is dying.
The hard old game is thriving. The theory that it is being overtaken by the UFC in America does not chime with the main cable networks in the United States – Showtime and HBO – being locked in a bidding war as ferocious in its way as the boxing matches they are competing to broadcast.
And that is happening even while terrestrial giants CBS are entering the fray. BBC and ITV please take note.
While the Yanks are still waiting for another heavyweight champion – and hoping that knockout artist Deontay Wilder may be The One – they have the likes of Adrien Broner lighting up the lower divisions.
Also, with the Hispanic population growing more populous by the day, big fights involving Mexican and other Latin American fighters are putting the boom back in boxing over there.
This side of the Atlantic Carl Froch’s return of his epic re-match with Mikkel Kessler is putting prize-fighting back on pay-per-view. Meanwhile, a new wave of exciting young fighters keeps boxing thriving as the second favourite sport of the British male after football.
On mainland Europe, the domination of the heavyweight division by the Brothers Klitschko drives fisticuffs East and West.
Pacquiao, despite his shock KO by Juan Manuel Marquez, remains the standard bearer for the vibrant Asian scene and, this November, will drive the sport’s move into the potentially gigantic Chinese market by boxing in Macau.
Pay-per-view in the People’s Republic could even hoist Pacquiao above Mayweather in sport’s rich list.
The pre-eminence of these two is all the more remarkable given the competition from other sports whose stars, unlike boxers, have their income massively boosted by commercial endorsements.
The rise of Mayweather and Pacquiao has coincided with the fall of Tiger Woods, now economically as well as in public esteem.
Of course, take-home pay of $40.8m (£26.71m) is more than enough to pay the rent and the alimony. But at less than half of Mayweather’s income, that figure knocks him off the top of Sports Illustrated rankings for the first time in almost a decade – and down to 10th in our composite listing.
Beckham’s retirement has given rise to predictions that now, relieved of what his advisers might have come to regard as the time-wasting necessity of kicking a football, he can get down to the serious business of earning the dollar equivalent of £300million. That may be fanciful.
But if anything approaching that amount turns out to be accurate, the irony will be that he is no longer a sportsman
And while he continues to exploit his fame through the Brand Beckham myriad of marketing, advertising and endorsements, Money Mayweather and the PacMan will carry on earning virtually all their fortunes the hard way – in the ring.
THE RICH LIST TOP TEN (latest annual earnings)
1) Floyd Mayweather – boxing – $90m (£58.94m)
2) Manny Pacquiao – boxing – $57.3m (£37.52m)
3) Kobe Bryant – basketball – $56m (£36.67m)
4) LeBron James – basketball – $54.7m (£35.82m)
5) Roger Federer – tennis – $52m (£34.05m)
6) Phil Mickelson – golf – $48.1m (£31.5m)
7) David Beckham – football – $46m (£30.12m)
8) Lionel Messi – football – $45.6m (£29.87m)
9) Cristiano Ronaldo – football – $42.5m (£27.82m)
10) Tiger Woods – golf – $40.8m (£26.71m)
Others: Wayne Rooney $23m (£15.06m); Lewis Hamilton $18.5m (£12.12m); Carlos Tevez $11.2m (£7.33m); Ryan Giggs $6.3m (£4.13m)
The weekend brought a tale of two cornermen – one a former world champion, the other still campaigning to become one – and the amount of punishment they were prepared to let their fighters suffer.
Russia’s defending world cruiserweight Denis Lebedev was permitted to paw his way blindly as far as the 11th round with an eye injury which made the gargoyles on the neighbouring buildings in Moscow look quite beautiful by comparison.
Colchester’s Lee Purdy, comprehensively out-classed as he was in his world title bout in Atlantic City, was pulled out at the end of the seventh , while in markedly better condition than Lebedev, so that he might fight another day.
Darren Barker, who gets his second shot at a world middleweight title when he takes on Australia’s Daniel Geale in America on August 17, stepped up to his friend Purdy’s corner when regular trainer Tony Sims was denied a US visa,
Barker told Purdy enough was enough as IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander continued to beat him up even after damaging his left hand in the first round.
Lebedev is trained by Kostya Tszyu, Russia’s Australia-based former world light-welterweight champion.
Lebedev was cut in the first round and his swollen right eye appeared to be closed as early as the fourth. Yet he was allowed to continue until he was stopped in the 11th by Guillermo Jones, Panama’s former and now current champion who is promoted by Don King.
Tszyu, it is pertinent to remember, quit on his stool at the end of the 11th round in Manchester in 2005 rather than take another three minutes’ battering from Ricky Hatton in what was the defining fight of the Hitman’s career.
It is easy for cornermen and referees – and we critics at ringside – to be brave when it is the boxers who have to take the blows.
The compassionate Barker knows that.
Tszyu, who retired altogether after losing his title, appears to have become exceedingly brave during the intervening eight years.
Richard Schaefer, chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, acclaims Matthysse as ‘the new Manny Pacquiao.’
Certainly as far as left hooks go, Schaefer may be right – also in terms of how this thunderous puncher is electrifying the hard old game.
Whenever they say boxing is dying an exciting new talent emerges. This one has been delayed until after his 30th birthday by the reluctance of reigning champions to take on a man with 32 knock outs in his 34 victories.
Even on Saturday Matthysse had to agree to a catch-weight contest with Peterson, which protected the Washington drug-cheat’s ill-gotten (from Amir Khan) IBF title.
Not that all the world title holders can hide any longer. Danny Garcia, a more authentic winner over Khan, has to face Matthysse shortly in the final of a mini-tournament to find the next opponent for Britain’s former champion.
The punches which put Peterson down three times en route to his third round defeat revealed exactly why the world’s light-welterweights have been ducking the 30-year-old Matthysse all these years.
Not that Khan, who has earned the hard way a reputation for sometimes being too brave for his own good, is intimidated.
‘I would love to get in the ring with Matthysse,’ he says. ‘My style is ideal for beating him.’
If it happens – and Khan has the option of moving up to face IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander on December 7 – let’s pray that he is right.