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Can an Olympics Defeat Be Good for Your Career? Floyd Mayweather Jr. Thinks So

Olympic athletes are fueled by losses just as much as victories.

By Chris Phelan

Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. retired in 2017 as arguably the greatest boxer to ever enter the ring.

He never lost once in his professional career, amassing a perfect 50-0 record. Over 20-plus years, he won the majority of his fights by knockout (27 times, to be exact) and collected 15 major world championships. Mayweather was unique in the ring in that he wasn't an overpowering fighter like Mike Tyson or George Foreman, but an athlete who used his footwork and athleticism to box defensively – which often led his opponent to tire themselves out right before he'd land definitive blows to win the fight.

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However, Mayweather's amateur career isn't as flawless as fans may think. Although his professional record is filled with nothing but victories, his amateur career ended at 84 wins and six losses – including one particularly historic (and controversial) one. Just a few months before turning pro, he competed in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. He walked away with "only" a bronze medal in the featherweight division, thanks to a controversial finish in his match against Bulgaria's Serafim Todorov in one of the more chaotic Olympic boxing moments.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. attends the red carpet for his brithday party in 2022

When Was Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s Last Boxing Loss?

It's been nearly 30 years, and what happened during the match (Mayweather seemed to be winning nearly every round) and post-match (it was one of the most confusing announcements of all time) still makes us scratch our heads. See for yourself:

Even the referee thought Floyd Mayweather had won the match, mistakenly raising Mayweather's hand even though the judges decided otherwise. Todorov officially beat Mayweather by one point to advance to the gold medal round, leaving the future 15-time world champion to compete for the bronze. Todorov failed to win in the finals, while Mayweather easily captured the third-place prize. It certainly wasn't the triumphant Olympic moment Mayweather envisioned when he arrived in Atlanta.

Nobody could've predicted it at the time, but that 1996 Olympics semifinal loss would be the last time Floyd Mayweather would lose a fight ever again. Interestingly enough, Mayweather has gone on the record saying his loss against Todorov in Atlanta wasn't a negative in his career, but a positive.

How Did Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s 1996 Olympic Loss Motivate Him?

In a 2020 interview with football legend Shannon Sharpe, Mayweather looked back at that historic loss that prefaced his illustrious professional career. Nobody's ever doubted Mayweather's motivation to be the best boxer to ever live, but interestingly, he revealed that it was his Olympic loss that fueled him to greater heights. He told Sharpe he has no regrets about his amateur career, which saw him lose only six fights, each by one point – including that fateful bout in Atlanta.

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It's fair to say Mayweather would've preferred to compete in the gold medal match (and ultimately win the entire Olympic featherweight boxing tournament), but he has long since come to peace with taking home the bronze instead.

"Am I happy with receiving the bronze medal and not winning gold? Absolutely," Mayweather revealed.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring after beating B. Tileganev of Kazahkstan at the 1996 olympics

It was a rare moment of humility for Mayweather, who has made a career out of being just as talented with trash-talking his opponents as he was dismantling them inside the ring. Still, Shannon Sharpe couldn't help but ask the former champion about the heartbreak he experienced by having his hand raised mistakenly in a shocking, losing effort.

"The referee raised my hand because he thought I won – but I'm glad that the fight went like it went," he continued. "It made me work that much harder as a professional not to feel that same pain again."

Sharpe proceeded to harp on the issue, asking Mayweather point-blank if what happened in Atlanta was one of the greatest things to ever happen to him. 

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"That was one of the best things to happen to me – one of the best things," Mayweather clarified.

So there you have it.

We'd say Mayweather's focus on working that much harder as a professional fighter paid off, wouldn't you? Just a few months after his surprising Olympic loss, Mayweather turned pro and the rest, as they say, is history. Fifty wins later, many boxing pundits believe Mayweather is the best pound-for-pound fighter in history – and really, who can argue against it?

Ultimately, Mayweather's Olympic success (or lack thereof) is a prime example of the importance of getting back up when knocked down.

To see how Team USA performs at the 2024 Olympics, tune in to Peacock and NBC beginning July 26.

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