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AN EXPERT'S VIEW // AL BERNSTEIN

What we will be seeing at these trials is a very deep field of boxers, a lot deeper than many people thought it would be. As always, there will be some who don't go, boxers who, if they did go, could easily win medals.

And there are a couple of men who clearly can dominate their weight classes.

One, obviously, is Antonio Tarver. Ironically, within his 178-pound weight class, there is plenty of talent _ Olanda Anderson from the Army and Anthony Stewart. Still, you have to believe that Tarver will be the man going to the Games.

The other division with a clear-cut favorite is the lightweights, 132 pounds, with Terrance Cauthen, who lost at the U.S. championships to Jermaine Fields. So the revenge factor may make him box even better.

The best showdown is probably in the 125-pound division _ Floyd Mayweather and Carlos Navarro. They've boxed a couple of times, some very good battles. It's a shame one of them (or both; you never know) won't be going to the Olympics.

Hector Camacho Jr., in light-welterweight, 139 pounds, has a very good chance to win. He's very quick, much like you'd expect him to be, considering his bloodline. (His father, Hector "Macho" Camacho, is a former three-time world champion.) Hector Jr. performed well at the U.S. championships.

One of the other fighters I think is going in as a huge favorite is David Reid in 156. He moved up from 147 and even though there are some very good boxers in his class, like Jeffrey Clark from the Army, Reid is going to be very tough to beat.

A lot of people are always interested in the big fighters. In super-heavyweight there's a very interesting matchup between Lawrence Clay-Bey and Charles Shufford, probably the two best in that division and either of whom would be an Olympic medalist. Among the heavyweights, watch Lamont Brewster and Harold Sconiers.

There almost never is a "lock" for a gold medal. We look back now at Joe Frazier or Muhammad Ali, when he was Cassius Clay, and we think they were always a sure thing. But they weren't. Not back then.

But on this team, if they live up to expectations and use all the tools they have, Tarver and Cauthen are as close to a lock as we have. Maybe Reid as well. They have proven themselves in the international arena.

Here's something to keep in mind. The last Olympic team should have won a lot more medals. What prevented it was some bad judging and officiating and a lack of international experience. It is incumbent upon Tarver and Cauthen and Reid and the coaches to make sure these other guys, who are talented, can cope with the pressure of international and Olympic competition.

One thing, though: the fact that the Olympics are in the United States is a big plus, a huge plus. In Barcelona in '92, our boxers felt they were adrift in a sea of hostility. It won't feel so alien to them this time. And they'll have the crowd behind them. Sometimes emotion and motivation can be the difference between a loss and a win.

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Al Bernstein, longtime boxing analyst for ESPN who will be calling the Olympic matches for NBC at Atlanta, shares his thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Boxing Trials with staff writer Bruce Lowitt.

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