The already sublime 2005 IRON MAN Pro line-up got even better last week when "The Freakin' Rican" - Gustavo Badell, announced he'll be on the Pasadena Civic Auditorium stage on February 19.
Badell, last season's most improved physique artist in the land, and the recipient of the "Comeback Bodybuilder of the Year" award in my "News and Views" column in IRON MAN Magazine, joins a band of warriors like Lee Priest, Troy Alves, Melvin Anthony, Mark Dugdale, David Henry, Craig Titus, Shari "King" Kamali and Franklin "The Texas Tornado" Roberson to name a few.
Please allow me to digress a bit before breaking down the field. Some one-watt got real personal on Getbig.com recently for giving Badell his moniker. The pin head called me a moron, since Badell was born in Venezuela and, according to this know it all, has lived in Puerto Rico for but a couple of years. Of course, I can't tell you who the idiot is, since the gutless wonder posted, naturally, under "Guest", rather than his real name.
So, where did I get my info on Gustavo? Well, a real good source had told me in the past that Badell, yes, was born in Venezuela but has lived in Puerto Rico for years, married there, is raising his family there, has a business there and considers himself to be Puerto Rican. The source? Badell himself.
In fact, the ultimate reward was seeing Badell himself responding to the name calling, reciting this exact information. And, that he LIKES the nickname I gave him. A real class act on and off the stage. Feeling like a total ass by now, moron?
Now, back to business. Adding Badell to the IM line-up is freakin' hot news. After reveling in mediocrity for several years, Badell hooked up with contest prep guru Milos Sarcev and shocked our world in 2004. It began at the IRON MAN press conference where we brought back the first weigh-in at a pro show since the 1988 'Olympia.
Pics From The 2004 Ironman.
Badell awed the crowd when he peeled off his shirt; everyone in attendance knew this was an upgraded version of what we'd seen in the past. The next day he qualified for the 'Olympia, finishing third behind Dexter Jackson and Priest.
Of course, Badell eventually became a part of perhaps the biggest story of '04: he trailed Jackson after three rounds at the 'Olympia, but surpassed him in the newly anointed Challenge Round to finish third, adding another 10 grand to his pocket with the switching of places, and being part of the newly installed segment's controversy that ensued.
So, was he was one-hit wonder or the real deal? We'll get the answer to that question this season, beginning with the IRON MAN. Here's a closer look at the leaders of the pack:
Badell, Priest, Anthony.
Badell, at 5'7" and 235 pounds, showed off thick, dense muscle last year, topped off with Grade A conditioning. After taking third at the Olympia, Gustavo now knows he's one of the best in the world. How can he be beaten? If Priest shows up looking the way he does in the pictures posted at www.graphicmuscle.com.
He's four weeks out at this point, and freakier than ever at 212 pounds. Even IRON MAN Publisher and contest promoter John Balik was awed by the preview. Can you believe those guns? Best overall arm development in the history of the game. The 5'5" Priest can't believe he's finished in the runner-up slot three times at this show, and wants the title badly.
Lee Priest 4 Weeks Out. Click Here For More Pics.
Another guy who's tired of second place finishes, Marvelous Melvin (Anthony was second in 2001 and 2003), told me when we spoke a few days back that he was 243 (at 5'8 1/2") and trimming down to about 235 for the IM. Remember, Anthony's last contest - the 2004 Night of Champions - was a victorious one, so I have to include him in the Favorites Club.
Melvin At The 2004 Night Of Champions.
Anthony has a great, aesthetic physique and if he's in top form, will battle for the crown. He'll need to be at his all-time best, though, if Badell and Priest show up in mint condition.
Alves has one of the "prettier" bodies in the industry, but after an off 2004, is out to prove that he's not a flash in the pan. Troy, fourth in his pro debut at the 2004 IRON MAN, finished eighth in the 'Olympia that year en route to winning my "Rookie of the Year" award. Last year he could only muster fifth at the Show of Strength, and a devastating 15th at the 'Olympia.
Troy At The 2004 Olympia.
The 5'8 1/2", 215 pounder's biggest problem has always been a lack of conditioning in the glute and hamstring area and you can be sure the judges will zero in on those area's as soon as Alves turns to the back. If he tightens up, he'll do battle with anyone in the field.
Craig Titus, King Kamali, Mark Dugdale, Toney Freeman, David Henry, and Franklin Roberson.
Titus, who finished fifth last year, says to hell with all the last second pre-contest prep tricks that have foiled him in the past; he's ready to go two weeks out and says he'll be in the condition he displayed in 2001.
Don't know what to say about Kamali; the King has been unusually quiet with nary a post on the message boards I've seen. What does that mean? Is he training like a mad man, really dialing it in, or his he so far behind that he doesn't want any attention? We'll soon find out.
In any case, Kamali was at his all-time best in his pro debut at the 2001 IRON MAN when he finished third. This is his first trip back to the show since then. Will history repeat itself?
I know one thing about Dugdale, the 2004 USA Overall champ-he will be as polished as anybody on stage. Mark isn't the biggest guy, at 5'6" and probably around 205 pounds, but is a warrior in the gym and nobody is more focused. He gets hard as nails, and I think he will hold his own in his first outing on the pro level.
Speaking of smaller physiques, Henry toes the line at about 5'5", and 185-190 pounds. But, he was terrific in last year's contest when he barely missed a top five finish. He was already in shape when I saw him at the '04 Nationals in Dallas, so I expect an even better version to show up this year.
Freeman won the 2002 Nationals but hasn't shined as a pro yet. However, this 6'2", 250-pounder has a well-balanced, conditioned body and could cause a lot of headaches for his opponents if he shows up 10-15 percent better than in the past.
Roberson won the Heavyweight class at the 2003 Nationals but like Freeman, has been disappointed with his finishes on the pro stage. I like this cat's physique and think he can be a good pro. One thing for sure - with Anthony, Kamali and Roberson in the line-up, the crowd will be jacked up after seeing their routines. These guys, along with Darrem Charles, are the most entertaining performers in the industry.
Is this guy going to be a good pro or what? Hasn't shown it yet, failing to reach the conditioning level of his 2002 USA victory that brought him pro status. Like Alves, he's now working with nutrition guru Chris Aceto (who also wokrs with Jay Cutler) and says he's in the shape of his life. Don't they all? He'll have to be to do battle with these fellas. Idrise is a nice man; let's hope he turns into an animal on stage.
Idrise At The 2002 USA's. Click Here For More Pics.
All in all, this looks to be an outstanding field. In addition to the above mentioned gents, there are plenty of other outstanding bodybuilders who will flex in Pasadena: Rodney St. Cloud, Mike Morris, Rusty Jeffers, JoJo Ntiforo, Jeff Long and Jason Arntz to name a few.
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