LAS VEGAS -- As a city that bills itself as the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas attracts celebrities from all walks of life and corners of the globe. Many perform on stage. Others simply come to blow off steam. Professional athletes are no exception.
Thanks to Forbes.com, which came out on June 18 with a ranking of the world's 100 highest-paid athletes over the past year, we have identified the top eight on the list who have enjoyed major sporting achievements in Southern Nevada.
1. Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- The undefeated boxing champion and sole Las Vegas resident on the list topped the Forbes rankings by earning $85 million from two fights at the MGM Grand Garden Arena within the past year. Mayweather landed in the Clark County Detention Center after pleading guilty to domestic battery charges from a 2010 incident that victimized his ex-girlfriend with their sons present. But he also has had a major impact on the Las Vegas sports scene, earning 19 of his 43 professional victories in Southern Nevada, including a string of championship belts. Titles he has won in Las Vegas include the World Boxing Council super featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and light middleweight divisions, the World Boxing Association light middleweight crown, and welterweight championships from the International Boxing Organization and International Boxing Association.
2. Manny Pacquiao -- A politician in his native Philippines, boxer Pacquiao is second on the Forbes list with $62 million in earnings, including $56 million from the ring and $6 million in endorsements. Of his 60 pro fights, 14 have occurred in Las Vegas, where he has won 11 times, lost twice and gained one draw. Belts he has won or defended in Las Vegas include the International Boxing FederatIon super bantamweight crown, the World Boxing Council super featherweight and lightweight championships, the World Boxing Organization welterweight title, and the International Boxing Organization light welterweight crown. His latest fight was the controversial split decision loss to Timothy Bradley on June 9 at the MGM Grand.
Photo by Keith Allison
3. Tiger Woods -- Third on the Forbes list with $59.4 million in earnings, including $55 million from endorsements, the world class golfer won his first PGA Tour event in Las Vegas. His 27-under-par victory in the October 1996 Las Vegas Invitational -- at the TPC Summerlin, Desert Inn and Las Vegas Hilton Country Club courses -- set Woods on a path that would lead to wins in 14 major tournaments, second only to Jack Nicklaus. But Woods' notorious infidelities, including trysts in Las Vegas, led to a highly publicized divorce and a personal public relations nightmare.
4. Kobe Bryant -- The Los Angeles Lakers basketball star came in at number six on the Forbes list with $52.3 million in earnings, including $20.3 million for his activities on the court and $32 million in endorsements. The Bryant-led Lakers frequently have played preseason games in Las Vegas. But Bryant's greatest achievement in town was when he guided the West squad to a 153-132 victory over the East in the National Basketball Association All-Star Game on Feb. 18, 2007, at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center. He was named the game's most valuable player after scoring 31 points and adding five rebounds and six assists. Bryant also starred on the United States squad that won the FIBA Americas Championship at the Thomas & Mack Center in September 2007 and a berth in the 2008 Summer Olympics in China.
5. Wladimir Klitschko -- The champion heavyweight boxer from Ukraine, 24th in Forbes' rankings, earned $28 million, including $24 million in competition and $4 million in endorsements. He fought five times in Las Vegas from 1999 through 2004, winning four of those contests. Two of his victories at the Mandalay Bay resort were defenses of his World Boxing Organization heavyweight titles.
Photo by Brian Neudorff
6. Jeff Gordon -- The four-time NASCAR champion appeared 42nd on the Forbes list with $23.6 million in earnings, including $13.6 million from stock car racing and $10 million in endorsements. Gordon, who has appeared in every Nascar Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway since the inaugural competition in 1998, won the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at the track on March 4, 2001.
7. Tony Stewart -- The defending NASCAR champion landed 47th on the Forbes list with $22.3 million in earnings, including $15.3 million from the track and $7 million in endorsements. Stewart once famously complained about racing conditions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after the track was reconfigured. But he must have grown accustomed to the racing surface, given his March 11 victory at the facility's Kobalt Tools 400.
8. Jimmie Johnson -- With five NASCAR titles under his belt, Johnson ranked 53rd on the Forbes list with $21.5 million in earnings, including $14.5 million from racing and $7 million in endorsements. Johnson has more victories at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with four, than any of his Sprint Cup foes. He took the checkered flag in Las Vegas in 2005 through 2007 and 2010.