Muhammad Ali was a great boxer. He was a great philanthropist. This we know.
But he was also a great businessman and one of the most influential sports-entertainment figures of the 20th century.
“Everybody is talking about what a great fighter he was and his humanitarian causes. That’s all true,” Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “But just as a shorthand, some of the things that are now going to be focused on by people: Pacquiao, De La Hoya, Mayweather – (they) all (have a) net worth over $100 million. They wouldn’t be anywhere near that if it wasn’t for this guy increasing the purses and also the leverage. He sold about 80 percent of his company, his licensing company, CKX, in 2006 for about 80 million bucks. So he was worth $50 or 60 million, but he made that money for all of those other folks.”
Ali also knew the art of promotion – whether it was for him or someone else.
“Let’s remember that he was a guest referee in that Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, Rowdy Roddy Piper match years ago (at WrestleMania I in 1985),” Horrow said. “That was one thing. The other thing about him is it’s rap combined with promotion. He made (Howard) Cosell, (Howard) Cosell made him. But the bottom line is, vaudeville in sports and rap – you got credit it to him.”
Ali also impacted technology and the global nature of sports, as he fought in Zaire, Manila and everything in between.
“He basically was the father of Pay-Per-View because you have to create an industry to cover him, and that’s where a lot of the Pay-Per-View fights began in January of 1973 with Frazier and Foreman,” Horrow said. “But it was the infrastructure created by Ali’s Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle.”