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Original Issue

The Contenders?

The boxing venue is, alone among the mostly magnificent Olympic architecture, nondescript and well off the beaten path. This, of course, is the controlling metaphor for the U.S. program, which failed to produce a single gold medal in 2000 and isn't expected to win much this time either. But the team got off to a good start in the first three days with wins by 20-year-old middleweight Andre Dirrell (inset), welterweight Vanes Martirosyane, 18, and lightweight Vincente Escobedo, 22. Coach Basheer Abdullah was confident about his boxers' chances. "I might know something you don't," he suggested.

He says that his boxers are trained for specific opponents and styles, the way the Cubans and the Russians have always been.

Certainly they have enthusiasm. Team members asked to rearrange their workouts to attend Dirrell's bout, which suggests a camaraderie absent for too long. Perhaps they know something we don't, too. --R.H.