Floyd Mayweather’s unblemished professional record and bulging bank account must have seemed a million miles away when he suffered defeat at the 1996 Olympics.
Before he even became ‘Pretty Boy’ Floyd – his nickname before the ‘Money’ moniker – the talented featherweight was dealt a cruel blow which would remain with him until his very last professional bout.
Mayweather was denied an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta when some questionable officiating brought him bronze – something which he would never settle for.
As a brash, young and enthusiastic fighter, big things were expected of the teenager on home soil as he had boxing in his blood thanks to a terrific lineage in his uncle and his father.
Of course, he could also fight and racked up victories as he moved into the pro game, but he left the amateur ranks with a sour taste in his mouth when he came up against the Bulgarian Serafim Todorov in the semi-final.
Mayweather’s 1996 Olympic record
The American was left heartbroken and with a Bronze medal after some questionable officiating
– Defeated Bakhtiyar Tileganov (Kazakhstan) by TKO
– Defeated Artur Gevorgyan (Armenia) on points (16–3)
– Defeated Lorenzo Aragon (Cuba) on points (12–11)
– Lost to Serafim Todorov (Bulgaria) on points (9–10)
The fight itself was scrappy, with Mayweather clearly the winner after avoiding shots and landing plenty of his own – satisfying the Olympic scoring criteria.
Astonishingly, the three judges scored it 10-9 in the favour of the Bulgarian, much to the anger of the US team.
Remarkably, the referee lifted Mayweather’s hand at the end of the fight, assuming it was his name about to be called by the announcer.
Instead, Todorov’s fist was eventually raised and he went on to win Olympic silver, while Mayweather was left with bronze
During an interview after the fight, a bloodied Mayweather could not find the words to compose himself and walked off with tears in his eyes.
Initially, he had been brash and cocky, telling the crowds, ‘You all know who the real world champion is.’
One of the US judges at the Games resigned immediately after the decision, noting he ‘refused to be a part of an organisation that continues to conduct its officiating in this manner.’
In 2015, the New York Post produced a detailed piece on Todorov and found him living in modest first-floor flat in Bulgaria with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, his jobs have varied from working as a driver, in a grocery store and in a sausage factory. He now earns $435 a month thanks to his pension.
“I wish him nothing but the best,” Mayweather told World Boxing News.
“I don’t know why he didn’t become a boxing trainer because at the time when we fought, he was already a lot older than I was.
“I was fighting at the elite stage at 16. I wanted to turn pro at 14, but it never happened. Five years later, I turned pro at 19. Within a year, I was a champion.”
Now 44, Mayweather has since retired and is regarded as one of the best ever and the 50-0 legend now promotes fighters, including the highly-rated Gervonta Davis.