Liam Morgan
Alan Hubbard 1You never hear Floyd Mayweather Jnr talk about his Olympic bronze boxing medal, gained in deeply controversial circumstances at the Atlanta Games of 1996. No doubt it has been disdainfully tossed away and nestles somewhere in his sock draw at his Las Vegas mansion amid an assorted pile of bling.

Yet, in the highly unlikely event of the Money Man ever falling on hard times, he could always sell it for a fortune, for while the intrinsic value of a bronze medal - which is actually copper mixed with tin and zinc - is approximately $5 (£3.20/€4.40) it surely would be worth several thousand times its weight in gold at an auction.

For boxing memorabilia is huge business these days. The gloves worn by Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston during their 1965 rematch in Lewiston, Maine, which Ali famously won with a first round knockout from what many - though not yours truly - saw as a "phantom punch" went for just short of a million dollars in New York last week.

So just imagine what any relics of Mayweather's career might be worth, especially as he has now put his signature on a contract to finally get it on with Manny Pacquiao in May in the richest unarmed combat pairing of all time.

No doubt Mayweather has buried in his enigmatic psyche the painful memory of that night in Atlanta when he was the victim of one the great Olympic stitch-ups, even though it was the springboard for him becoming the best rewarded sports figure in history.

Bronze is what he got then. Gold is what most believe he should and would have won had he not been mathematically mugged in his featherweight semi-final with the eventual winner, Serafim Todorov of Bulgaria.

The result was on a similarly unjust scale to the scandalous scoring involving his compatriot Roy Jones Jnr in Seoul eight years earlier. Mayweather, nicknamed "Pretty Boy" because of his largely unmarked features courtesy of a sound defensive strategy, seemed a clear victor. Indeed, the Eygptian referee even mistakenly raised the America's hand obviously thinking he had won.

But the official announcement gave the fight to the Bulgarian amid loud booing from the crowd at the Alexander Memorial Coliseum and a look of absolute incredulity from Mayweather.

Floyd Mayweather Jnr should finally take on Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on May 2  ©Getty ImagesFloyd Mayweather Jnr should finally take on Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on May 2
©Getty Images

The outraged US team filed a protest claiming the judges were intimidated by Bulgaria's Emil Jetchev, head of the tournament's boxing officials, into favouring the Bulgarian Todorov by a 10–9 decision. Three other Bulgarians had progressed to gold medal bouts.

Judge Bill Waeckerle, one of the four US officials appointed by AIBA (then the International Amateur Boxing Association) subsequently resigned in protest at a decision declaring: "I refuse to be part of an organisation that continues to conduct its officiating in this manner."

Waeckerle wrote in his letter of resignation to the AIBA president, the late and ultimately discredited Anwar Choudry, whose own eventual departure led to Taiwan's Dr C K Wu gaining the Presidency largely on an anti-corruption ticket.

That semi-final bout was Mayweather's last defeat for he turned pro soon after and has long since shrugged off the episode, converting the discarded bronze bauble into a fortune unparalleled in the annals of sport. He is estimated to have earned $400 million (£259 million/€353 million) even before folding the record massive pay cheque for the Pacquiao fight into in his back pocket.

They say this is an event that was destined to happen but it has turned into a five-and-a-half-year soap opera.

So the coupling that has had the longest gestation period in sporting history finally becomes a happening. And when Mayweather and Pacquiao now touch their golden gloves in mid-ring at the MGM Grand in Nevada's Casino Citadel on Saturday 2 May, the cheers will be drowned out not by the jangling sound of fruit machines but cash registers.

The mega fight the world has drooled over for so long is expected to generate a minimum £162 million ($250 million/€220 million), with the rival TV networks, Showtime and HBO, to whom they've respectively contracted, sharing coverage for the first time since Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson in 2002.

The welterweight showdown for the mantle of the world's supreme fighter has a 60-40 split in favour of Mayweather, who will earn in the region of $150 million (£97 million/€132 million) with Pacquiao guaranteed $100 million (£65 million/€88 million).

Both Pacquiao and Mayweather are set to earn huge sums of money from a fight that many feel should have happened many years ago ©Getty ImagesBoth Pacquiao and Mayweather are set to earn huge sums of money from a fight that many feel should have happened many years ago ©Getty Images

Ringside tickets are being marketed at £17,200 ($26,000/€23,000) at the 18,000 capacity arena, and the hotel's 3,000 rooms were sold out within three minutes of the fight's announcement.

Mayweather-Pacquiao is also expected to break the record for pay-per-view buys in the United States at up to $100 (£65/£88). The current record of 2.4m sales was set when Mayweather fought Oscar de la Hoya in 2007.

Yet while the superfight may be a reality, other the battles surrounding it have to be resolved. A bidding war is anticipated here for British TV rights with Sky and BoxNation going head-to-head for Pay Per View. Will ITV, back in the boxing business with live coverage of this weekend's Carl Frampton world super-bantamweight title fight in Belfast, open up the coffers available after losing European football and go for it? BT are also believed to be considering a bid.

Anglophile Pacquiao - his fans include his pal Prince Harry - is a Filipino Congressman who harbours aspirations to become his country's President; he has won world titles in six weight divisions; the narcissistic Mayweather, briefly incarcerated following a domestic assault, remains unbeaten through four weight classes.

Pacquiao has been beaten five times in 64 fights since turning pro as a 16-year-old in 1995, while Mayweather's unbeaten 47-fight record stretches back to 1996. Formerly "Pretty Boy", then the "Money Man", he also unashamedly labels himself TBE: "The Best Ever".

As sweet a scientist as he undoubtedly is, some will argue with that. As good as Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler? Not quite, in my view, but he is certainly up there in the mix.

Many consider Floyd Mayweather to be one of the best boxer ever along with greats such as Sugar Ray Leonard, but Alan Hubbard has his doubts ©Getty ImagesMany consider Floyd Mayweather to be one of the best boxer ever along with greats such as Sugar Ray Leonard, but Alan Hubbard has his doubts ©Getty Images

Like Ali-Frazier part one this is a fight that transcends boxing because no-one cares about belts, titles or weights. It is a classic contest of contrasts between arguably the most talented gloved gladiators of the past two decades.

However, recent performances suggest neither man is as sharp as they were. Pacquiao has had to fight his way back after two defeats in 2012, including a devastating knockout by Mexico's Juan Manuel Marquez, and Mayweather hasn't stopped an opponent since 2011.

While the Money Man and the Pacman were not spring chickens when this pairing was first mooted in 2009 they were still in their pugilistic prime. Now, with Mayweather, who turns 38 today, and Pacquiao 36, they are the ring's Sunshine Boys. But these days boxing is as much a country for old men as the young.

One Brit out in the cold is Amir Khan, twice jilted by Mayweather, who must now re-think his strategy as the likelihood is that there will be Mayweather v Pacquiao II in the autumn.

Khan believes we may be in for a disappointment on May 2.

"This would have been a massive fight when both were at their peak. It might have gone past that now. I think it will go the distance but that Mayweather will win by unanimous decision," the Briton said.

The news that Mayweather and Pacquiao will fight each other put paid to Amir Khan's hopes of fighting one of the pair this year ©Getty ImagesThe news that Mayweather and Pacquiao will fight each other put paid to Amir Khan's hopes of getting in the ring with one of the pair this year ©Getty Images

Likewise my instinct has always been that Mayweather, still a silky, sly master of boxing's backfoot arts, would prevail over Pacquiao's nippy piston-punching attacks, and the bookies agree, making him a 4-11 on favourite with Pacquiao at 9-4. But while it may not be the fight it could have been five years ago, it is still boxing's most mouth-watering match up.

Intriguingly, Mayweather has two fights left on his TV deal with Showtime and the assumption is that he will have the second in the autumn, possibly a rematch with Pacquiao, then retire after equalling Rocky Marciano's 60-year record by calling it a day undefeated as world champion after 49 fights.

This I doubt. His pride is such that the Money Man will want to become the History Man by breaking that record. Only one man has previously come close to equalling it.

In 1986 Larry Holmes would have done so if he had successfully defended his world heavyweight title against Michael Spinks. But he was robbed on a split decision - and was so incensed that when asked about the record he infamously snapped: "Rocky Marciano wasn't fit to carry my jockstrap."

It was a stupid insult for which he later apologised, but he lived to regret it when it turned much of America against him despite being one of the sport's outstanding champions.

Alan Hubbard is a sports columnist for the Independent on Sunday and a former sports editor of The Observer. He has covered a total of 16 Summer and Winter Games, 10 Commonwealth Games, several football World Cups and world title fights from Atlanta to Zaire.