But there has always been at least one female athlete, and as many as three, who qualified since the list was expanded to at least 50 names in 2010.
The list is dominated by athletes from America's NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball competitions, although the top five athletes - Mayweather, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Conor McGregor and Neymar - are from either football or combat sports. Williams and Maria Sharapova were the only women on the list in 2016 and 2015.
The Mayweather-McGregor fight turned out to be the biggest boxing night of 2017 and helped the two fighters pocket $285m and $99m, respectively, over the course of previous year.
Tennis champ Serena Williams was the sole female athlete on last year's list, but her 14-month absence starting in January 2017 to give birth to her first child, Olympia, left her without a prize-money boost. He is earning through salary and winnings was $4m while brand endorsements earned him $20m.
Swiss ace Federer remains the most attractive athlete for sponsors, with endorsement deals accounting for $85 million of his earnings.
United States boxer Floyd Mayweather has re-claimed the crown of the world's top earning athlete, but no women, or Australians, made the list.
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Tennis star Serena Williams was the sole female representative in the rankings past year and dropped off the new list after taking a break for the birth of her daughter.
The list included athletes from 22 countries in 11 sports. Close on the heels of Messi is another football legend, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The list, which details the top 100 earners in sport, has been dominated by three men over the course of the last 18 years, with Mayweather, Ronaldo and golfer Tiger Woods the only figures to have topped the standings over that period.
The top is dominated by American sportsmen including LeBron James and two National Football League quarterbacks, but there is no room for New England Patriots' hero Tom Brady. Former sprint king Usain Bolt has seen his stakes take a dip and is now No.45 on the list.