|2008 Ironman Pro Bodybuilding Contest Report and Review
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Bodybuilding.com and Gaspari Nutrition Presents:
2008 Ironman Pro
In Association with The Fit Expo
Convention Center in Los Angeles
Saturday February 16th, 2008
The contest started off with the announcement of the 32 competitors and presented them in order. They went through a series of poses which gave the audience a very good idea of the type of physique they would be presenting at the show.
- Eddie Abbew - UK
- Khalid Almohsinawi
- Troy Alves - USA
- Charles Ray Arde - USA
- Gustavo Badell - USA
- Paul Baker - Jamaica
- Troy Brown - UK
- Jimmy Canyon - USA
- Rodney Davis - USA
- Omar Deckard - USA
- Alfonso DelRio - Spain
- Mohamad Moussawi
- Deshaun Grimez - USA
- Will Harris - USA
- Phil Heath - USA
- David Henry - USA
- Johnnie O. Jackson - USA
- Rusty Jeffers - USA
- Kenny Jones - USA
- King Kamali - USA
- Vincent Liu - Canada
- Desmond Miller - USA
- Sergei Ogorodnikov - Russia
- Dragan Paunovic - Serbia
- Gian Enrico Pica - Italy
- Silvio Samuel - Spain
- Armin Scholz - Germany
- Nathan Wonsley - USA
- Mehmet Yildrim - France
I was impressed with this lineup of 32 great competitors as I felt it was one of the most competitive Ironman contests in recent history. Troy Alves had a remarkably fresh and young looking physique which is particularly impressive in light of the fact that he is 41 and will be 42 later this year. Troy maintained his usual high standard as did Gustavo Badell - although he was not at the level he was when he placed third at the 2005 Mr. Olympia contest.
The DVD starts off with Gustavo Badell posing at the weigh in session before the contest itself. Gustavo was SHREDDED, and it was pretty obvious that he would be right up there in the rankings. Troy Alves also took his shirt off to pose as well. Another clear top finisher. Even though no other competitors posed, given the caliber of showings traditionally at the Ironman it seemed very likely that these two would finish on top, and they both did (first and third place respectively). Paul Baker from Jamaica is someone who I had never seen on video before and he was very big and looked very well, bringing hardness and conditioning to the stage. As is fairly common amongst bodybuilders, his legs were lacking in comparison to his upper body. Paul is 6'2 or 6'3 and that makes it particularly hard to bring up the legs. Jimmy Canyon tried to play the size game by the initial appearance and it did not seem to work for him. Any bodybuilder who is 5'4 should show up as shredded as possible to ensure the greatest probability of success. Playing the size game will not help when compared to bodybuilders several inches taller.
When Omar Deckard showed up, although he was well within the 260s, he was still "small" (by bodybuilding standards) relatively to his height of about 6'1 or 6'2. Not that he was actually small, but believe it or not, even in the 260s, there was room for him to put on more muscle, which is another one of the issues with being a taller bodybuilder. Bob Cicherillo said it well in the commentary when he pointed out that Omar was currently what Toney Freeman looked like a few years ago - meaning that in time he will fill out his frame well and will likely do very well in the upper tier of bodybuilding competition. Mohamad Moussawi showed up on the stage and was looking absolutely freaky, with the most shredded glutes to appear so far. He immediately looked like a contender for the top spot.
Toney Freeman showed up next. A lot of people had high expectations of Toney due to his winning the whole show in 2008. That said, he was not the same bodybuilder in this contest as he was last year. Bob said that he would have to lose a little water as the show went on in order to win the show again, and from the looks of it, it looked like he was one of the better bodybuilders to appear so far, although making a perfectly accurate assessment would not be wasy at this point. Will Harris showed up but not in the same conditioning as he was in at the 2008 Europa Supershow and also not as good as it was at the Olympia.
Phil Heath came on stage next and to me he was the obvious winner immediately. I found that his quads were better than I had ever seen them. Historically I felt that his quads were not up to the same standard as his upper body - particularly his arms and shoulders. That said, his quads were insane in this case - big and shredded. Great separation and awesome size and sweep. Phil is definitely a top three threat at the Mr. Olympia in my opinion, as Bob also stated on the webcast. David Henry came out next and he appeared to be as shredded as his normally is, but Bob did not agree with this. His back was huge, but his legs do need to be brought up to be competitive. The main thing for David is conditioning - providing that he comes into contests as shredded as possible, he should remain a viable candidate to be in the top 10 amongst bodybuilders in the world.
Johnnie O. Jackson showed up next and his conditioning was very good. His density was as good as it normally is, and that is very likely due to his powerlifting background. Rusty Jeffers showed up next. He looked amazing for 5'9 and 1/2 and around 230 pounds. At 43 going on 44 years old, this is all the more impressive. Rusty was also able to pull off a vacuum pose in the Frank Zane tradition! In fact, conditioning aside, I would say that he is as good or better than Frank Zane. Rusty is also an excellent poser and has great lines. If only his conditioning was as good as Frank Zane he would truly be a modern day version.
King Kamali showed up next, and as usual he had made bold predictions going into the show, and as usual, he failed to live up to his expectations. I really wish he would just stop making these ridiculous predictions if he has no intention of actually meeting them. I found that Desmond Miller looked much better than I expected based on seeing his conditioning from one week out where he did not look very good and I thought that he would not peak on time for the show. Jojo Ntiforo looked like he was carved by an artist. At 5'10, he has a very small waist and presented good conditioning and muscularity. He had what I would consider a fairly ideal physique, much like the physique that Rusty Jeffers had presented just slightly earlier. The Russian professional bodybuilder Sergei Ogorodnikov presented a very thick physique - he was not the most aesthetically pleasing bodybuilder at the contest, but he was thick and dense and had lots of muscle. Silvio Samuel showed up next and was looking pretty good. His waist is small and he has comical looking muscle bellies. Silvio is like a new generation Dexter Jackson in that he always comes into contests in outstanding conditioning and is known for peaking each and every time, almost without exception. I know very few will agree with me, but I would not have had any issue with Silvio beating Dexter at the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest, although there were not enough comparisons made for me to determine whether or not that is reasonable to say.
Armin Scholz was absolutely huge - made all the more impressive since he is 6'3. Great physique and conditioning and I have no doubt that he can achieve success at the top tier of bodybuilding in the years to come. Nathan Wonsley from the USA showed up next, and he was along the lines of Jojo in terms of having a pleasing and aesthetic physique - also at 5'10 and with a very trim waist, and over the age of 40 to boot! Along with Rusty Jeffers, I would say that those three have the most pleasant physiques in the show and physiques which I would aspire to have myself.
The bodybuilders came out next divided into three groups so that the judges could compare the physiques in the lineup. It was a very good lineup and obviously a high quality show. Bob made the comment that Troy Alves was fighting the fifth place spot and final qualifying spot for the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest, but pointed out that he was fighting for that spot with three or four other guys. That is a good observation and also points out how close the bodybuilders from fifth and onward were. The bodybuilders went through the mandatory quarter turns and no one really stood out as being particularly out of shape at the contest. Everyone seemed to more or less hit their peak and added quality to the reputation of the Ironman Pro.
In the next lineup, David Henry was right next to Phil Heath and you could clearly see the discrepancy in size and height. When David Henry and Phil Heath competed together at Shawn Ray's 2006 Colorado pro bodybuilding contest, David was clearly sharper than Phil, but I think the tables have turned in this case, with Phil not only taller and more muscular, but also better conditioned than David. Phil was dry, as Bob pointed out in the commentary. That said, I do not think that David Henry showed up to this contest in his best shape ever. He looked better at the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest for example, as well as other contests.
In the commentary on the webcast, Bob claimed that the lineups of the bodybuilders was not exciting and did not add any excitement to bodybuilding. He said that if things were changed up a little bit, the fans might be more likely to attend contests. I happen to disagree with this because I feel that the lack of fan support for bodybuilding contests is due to a lack of overall demand for that particular segment of the free market, and not due to inherent flaws in the production of contests. On message boards, it is consistently said that new marketing strategies could help bodybuilding, but I doubt this is the case.
The first callout was next:
- Gustavo Badell
- Mohamad Moussawi
- Silvio Samuel
- Phil Heath
Based on the first callout, I would have put Phil Heath in the obvious lead. Not only did he show up in supreme conditioning and with huge size. The reality was that in addition to having this size and conditioning combination, Phil also has crazy muscle shape which you simply cannot train for. His arms looked cartoonish and I will dare to say that he is on the road to becoming one of the best in bodybuilding history. I feel that with continual improvements he can be on Kevin Levrone's level in due time.
In the second callout, Johnnie O. Jackson, Desmond Miller, and Eddie Abbew were newly called out and Mohamad and Silvio remained in this callout also. Toney Freeman who had won the whole show in 2008, was not called out in the second callout which would make one suspect that he was on his way to being placed on the lower end of the top 10. Bad news for Toney Freeman and I'm sure that he was not happy with this result.
The pros continued through the various callouts and the quality of the contest continued to impress me. This was Phil Heath's best showing so far in my opinion. Phil's back was amazing and vastly improved, especially for someone who some call "narrow". While I disagree with this assessment, I do agree that he will need to bring it up slightly in order for him to qualify as the best in the world. As it is now, Jay Cutler and Victor Martinez both have superior backs to Phil's, although this may change with time.
Will Harris did not get compared until later on in the contest. Will Harris was at his best at the 2008 Europa Supershow and was fairly good at the Mr. Olympia where he placed 15th. Although he did not look terribly bad, he simply did not look at his best which would have been required for him to be in the mix (i.e., in the top five) at this lineup. He still did look good, taking everything into consideration. As I said, he would have needed to be at his best to be in the mix mainly because he has that type of pro physique that look drastically different even though the actual observed differences are seemingly small. Some pros can demonstrate a wider margin of change and still be at the top. Ronnie Coleman for example, was able to come in off at some shows and still win, because even when he was off, he was still at the top of the ladder. Larry Pepe conceded my points about Will being the type of physique that needs to be truly ON in order to be in the mix.
The commentary by Dan Solomon, Bob Cicherillo, and Larry Pepe was excellent in my opinion and I think that it is the right decision to have these three act as the voice for bodybuilding in numerous media items such as webcasts and the very popular Pro Bodybuilding Weekly.
Rusty Jeffers was called out in a much later callout and that is unfortunate since he has an amazing physique. As I said, I feel that he has one of the most pleasing physiques on the stage, and to think he will be 44 later this year! Talk about motivation to consistently train hard knowing that you can look so young and be so apparently strong at what some would consider to be an advanced age.
Mohamad Moussawi was clearly improved and Bob commented on this as did Larry Pepe after him.
When Phil Heath was being compared directly to Gustavo Badell next, I think that Phil was the clear winner which is something to give serious consideration to given that Gustavo has been as high as third in the world when he placed third at the 2005 Mr. Olympia contest. That said, Gustavo was not at the same level he was in that contest. At the time he was training under guru Milos Sarcev and that may have made the difference.
Eddie posed to Michael Jackson music and put on an interesting routine but was somewhat sloppy in his transitional moves. His physique was at a very high level as is normal for Eddie, but I was not impressed with some of the slips in his posing. Nevertheless, Eddie is a great bodybuilder, and also a nice and very intelligent person.
Khalid posed to "Burn" by Usher. I think he could have used a little more colour and I think that he could possibly stood to be a little dryer but otherwise looked good.
Troy posed nearly flawlessly as he almost always does. At age 41 going on 42 this year, his physique still looked remarkably fresh and young looking. That said, I have seen him sharper than this before, particularly at the 2006 Ironman Pro contest where he placed third behind Lee Priest and David Henry. At that show, he had as much mass, but came into the contest in better condition.
After Troy posed, Lonnie Teper said that no flash photography was allowed by the fans. That struck me as very odd, and I thought he would retract the statement by saying "Just kidding" but he didn't. I had never heard of a rule at a show where you were not allowed to take photos, so this was extremely odd to me (and quite ridiculous to boot).
Charles Ray Arde
Charles Ray Arde brought good conditioning to the contest as well as good mass, but not enough of either to do much damage at the show. His colour was good and his posing was energetic and lively.
When Gustavo came onstage, his size and condition impressed me immediately. He was shredded from head to toe including his hamstrings and glutes tie-in. Not a lot of bad can be said about Gustavo in his performance at the finals, but that said, he has looked better in other shows, most notably the 2005 Mr. Olympia contest.
Paul Baker from the Caribbean islands came on stage next. He was absolutely huge. Bob said that he was in the 260s at a height of 6'2. His upper body was huge and his legs were big, but I suppose could be bigger as is the case with just about every tall guy.
Rodney was said to have been competing for 25 years but did not look very old. I think he could have done well to have applied another layer of oil. He had a very good V-taper, although his lats were a little high. Overall, a good physique.
Omar Deckard was next. He was huge and shredded although anyone over 6'1 like him will have to work a lot longer to fill out his long limbs. Relative to the shorter bodybuilders, they always appear to need to fill out more, but when they do, taller bodybuilders are most impressive.
Alfonso was a beast and I think that his colour and oil were both perfect. He had good size and conditioning and I think he fell down in the ranks based largely in part to lack of pro recognition.
Mo had fantastic conditioning and good size as well as good shape in my opinion. Clearly his major strength was conditioning and a definite Mr. Olympia qualifier and Arnold classic invitee.
Toney came on stage and looked huge. It's amazing how big the taller guys have to be in order to look as fully muscled as the shorter guys. Toney's legs were huge and I felt that he was in very good conditioning. I also felt that his calves were huge which I found particularly impressive for a tall bodybuilder and also for a black bodybuilder. If he makes some minor adjustments for the Arnold Classic, I foresee big things for him there.
Deshaun had roughly the size of Phil Heath, but this is where structure plays a huge role. His muscles didn't have the same cartoonish shape that Phil's did and so he was not as impressive in terms of overall structure. His conditioning was good, but the same size and condition with a superior structure would make a world of difference. And this is no disrespect to his physique, just in comparison to the absolute best in bodybuilding history. Overall, this was a good performance for Deshaun.
Will looked good, but did not fulfill his promises of potentially winning the show as he had said pre-contest. He dances during his routine which some people like and some people don't. Overall, I did not think he hit his peak, but he seemed happy and lively during his posing routine.
In my mind, Phil was the clear winner the moment that he stepped on stage. He was hard and conditioned and made major improvements in some areas - for instance his quads. All he needs to be Mr. Olympia is to bring up his back and chest slightly and maintain his usual high level of conditioning. I do feel that his colour and oil could have been better at this contest though, and given how intelligent and attentive to detail Phil is, I am somewhat surprised he would miss something like that.
David Henry looked very sharp and conditioned and perhaps he improved slightly since prejudging. David should not and cannot play the size game at his height and may as well opt to come into shows as shredded as possible for the best chance of success, and top 10 in the world is perfectly sustainable for him should he do exactly that.
Johnny Jackson was looking hard and dense and an obvious top finisher in my opinion. I felt his legs looked a little improved although I think he has came in with better conditioning before though.
Rusty Jeffers was looking very well and it is just amazing to see a 43 year old man look like this. At 5'9 and 1/2 and 230 pounds I remain incredibly impressed with his physique and also his posing ability and longevity in bodybuilding.
Kenny Jones posed next and he seems to love competition but of course was nothing impressive in a lineup as strong as this one. It's hard to do much damage with as little mass as Kenny carries. That said, I would imagine that in person he is a little big man and definitely impressive to members of the general public, just not to bodybuilding fans relative to other bodybuilders on the scene.
King once again made huge promises coming in to this show and once again failed miserably. I have finally lost all hope in King ever getting back to his 2001 best ever performances. King's music had problems and his routine needed to be postponed slightly.
Later on, when Kamali's music was working properly he came back on the stage to pose and although he was looking to be in decent condition, he simply failed on his promises again, and I hate to say that. It's not that I'm angry, but I met King at the 2008 Arnold Classic and I really wanted to see him do well in this show. He had made big promises at the time and basically said "Trust me", and once again, he failed to deliver on his 2001 performance. I hope that he can come in to a contest in the future in his best shape ever since he is relatively young at only 35 years old (36 this year), but it seems to be like his best days are past. :(
Desmond showed up and was one huge man. He looked more to be a huge white man than a huge black man though. For example, his waist was pretty big, which is more rare for black men than it is for white men, and if anything, his legs were too big for his upper body. His calves didn't appear to be lacking either. For a taller bodybuilder, he definitely had huge legs. Having seen his pre-contest pictures on the internet, I did not think he would come into this contest in shape, but he did. It is possible he will peak even further for the 2008 Arnold Classic. He was looking very well and Desmond appeared to be a possible Mr. Olympia qualifier.
Jojo looked very good. I found it interesting that Bob defined him as a "tall guy". Jojo is 5'10, but in bodybuilding, that is tall. In fact, bodybuilders over 5'11 are seemingly at a height disadvantage for winning the Mr. Olympia. Jojo had a classic physique and one which I would love to have myself. Definitely one of my favourite on the stage.
Sergei looked to be an old time bodybuilder but was said to be only 42 years old. From the looks of things he was at least 5'10 and although he sported a very wide waist, he was hugely muscular and very dense and shredded. In fact, I would say he looked better than King Kamali, although he ultimately did not place as well and I do think that bodybuilders such as King who are popular in the mainstream bodybuilding media (and the internet media) do get favourable placings as a result of that name. This clearly has the opposite effect on lesser known bodybuilders like Sergei and this was directly reflected in his placing at this contest. He posed to the song "Freedom to Love" by Lexter which is a song which I had never heard of before which may possibly be popular in his homeland of Siberia. I think it's unfortunate that mainstream North American media and radio is so conservative when it comes to music and does not import interesting tunes like this one more often. I think it would be popular here if it came here.
Dragan was in decent condition with decent size, but not quite enough size to do serious damage at this show. A good physique for certain, but in a the pro ranks, more size would be needed to place highly in contests. His conditioning was good and he came in dry, but would need more mass. One of the many competitors here at the show who travelled the world to be at the show, so I give him props for that.
Gian Enrico Pica
Gian Enrico Pica from Italy looked to have a good structure for bodybuilding . His conditioning looked good although his back did not look quite as dry as the rest of his body and all in all, a few adjustments could have helped him along with a little well placed mass. I think he has definite potential as a professional if he chooses to pursue it to a high level.
Silvio Samuel Saviour
Silvio looked very good and when I saw him I knew he would have one of the highest placings at the contest. Silvio is a very consistent bodybuilder and this contest is no exception. He was a definite pick to qualify for the 2008 Mr. Olympia at this contest.
Armin Scholz was another excellent bodybuilder who placed behind King Kamali when he shouldn't have. Clearly, the more and more I consider it, the more and more I realize that name recognition does get you into the top 15 of any bodybuilding contest and it's quite pathetic. Even with Armin's "weak" legs, I think he definitely should have placed, period. Even 15th would be better than not placing at all. His legs were hugely separated and shredded, just lacking slightly in size. His lat spread was huge and overall he looked great. I definitely strongly disagree with Armin not placing.
Nathan looked very good. Fantastic build for 5'9 and 1/2 and yet another of the physiques which I would love to have myself. Massive, but not so ridiculously so that it makes him look stupid or anything. Overall, although I do appreciate his physique personally, I do see that he needs to make improvements in size and conditioning to make the top ranks.
Mehmet had a funky structure, but was certainly fairly hard. His structure left something to be desired though, so I can understand why he was not among the top placings at this contest. His physique was reminiscent of the physique of Curtis Leffler in some ways to me.
Next, the top 10 were called out:
- Eddie Abbew - UK
- Troy Alves - USA
- Gustavo Badell - USA
- Mohamad Moussawi - Lebanon
- Toney Freeman - USA
- Phil Heath - USA
- Johnnie O. Jackson - USA
- King Kamali - USA
- Desmond Miller - USA
- Silvio Samuel - Spain
10th through to 6th place King Kamali, Troy Alves, Toney Freeman, Eddie Abbew, and Desmond Miller in that order, with Desmond Miller narrowly missing the 5th place qualifying spot for the Mr. Olympia contest. King and Troy both appeared to be pleased with their placings although some in the audience booed at Toney Freeman's placing, which was an unfortunate one given that he had won the whole show last year.
Now the top five remained:
- Gustavo Badell - USA
- Mohamad Moussawi - Lebanon
- Phil Heath - USA
- Johnnie O. Jackson - USA
- Silvio Samuel - Spain
The remaining top five pros went through the quarter turns standing relaxed followed by the mandatory poses and were looking very well. Based on what I saw I would have have Phil Heath as the winner for sure. Gustavo Badell seemed to be the obvious follower with Silvio in third place, Mohamad Moussawi in fourth place, and Johnny O. Jackson in fifth place, although I could see Mo being as high as third.
Next up, Melvin Anthony showed up on stage to do present the best poser award, an award which he previously won himself. Since he was going to be competing at the Mr. Olympia in two weeks, Lonnie Teper asked him to pose and he did. He was looking very good with a huge back and small waist, although I would say Phil Heath beats him on arms for sure and shoulders as well. Chests are close, but I would give it to Melvin. Melvin claimed to be weighing 255 pounds that day. He posed his legs which were huge as well.
The Vince Gironda best presentation award went to King Kamali. While I'm not sure if King deserved it or not, I will say that I am not unhappy with King winning it. If his posing wasn't the most entertaining in the show, it was definitely among the best, so it is reasonable to award that to King. I'm not sure if he deserved to be in the top 10, and I think King knew that too, but I would say he deserved the posing award and if not, was still very close to the best, making it not unreasonable to award him the trophy.
Now the top five were announced in order:
- 5th - Johnnie O. Jackson - USA
- 4th - Silvio Samuel - Spain
- 3rd - Mohamad Moussawi - Lebanon
- 2nd - Gustavo Badell - USA
- 1st - Phil Heath - USA
I was pleased with the results of the top four. It is debatable that Mohamad could have traded places with Silvio, and outside of the top five, other results were debatable, and it seemed like name recognition played a huge role, but one thing which is very interesting to note is that 75% of the votes from the online poll for People's Choice Award went to Phil Heath and he won the additional $500 prize associated with that.
At the end of the contest, Jay Cutler gave a brief speech as did Phil Heath. Phil is a great public speaker and is very realistic and objective in his assessments about himself. I think he will do very well at the 2008 Arnold Classic. Afterwards, when being interviewed by Dan Solomon and Bob Cicherillo, Phil remained humble and spoke about his next competition at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic.
Overall, this was a very high quality contest and one of the better Ironman contests that I can think of in recent memory. That said, I noticed at this contest, perhaps more than ever I ever noticed before, how much name recognition helps. King Kamali for example, had no business placing where he did, and I think he knew it. Also, both Armin Scholz and Sergei Ogorodnikov were deserving of top 15 spots, but if you noticed, some people were in there who may not have deserved to be. For example, a crisp Will Harris could have been close to the top five at this contest and close to qualifying for the Mr. Olympia. As it turned out, he was not at his best, and I could easily have seen him out of the top 15. But he is a bigger name in bodybuilding, having previously been as high as 15th in the world in 2008, and so I think that helped his placing a little. Not to sound conspiratorial, but this contest, although relatively well judged compared to other contests, would have been judged slightly differently if I had it my way. I do think they gave four of five Mr. Olympia qualifications out correctly which to me is the most important thing. I could possibly seen Johnnie O. Jackson switching spots with Desmond Miller, but I do agree that the top four should rightfully be going to Las Vegas to compete at the Olympia later this year, and giving those qualifying spots out properly is to me the most important part of the judging since the bodybuilders most likely place the highest emphasis on those placings (with prize money associated with them to boot). All in all this was a high caliber show and proof that there still is quality in bodybuilding today.
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