The 2006 pro bodybuilding season looks to be kicking off with an exciting line-up of athletes at the IFBB Pro Iron Man in Pasadena, CA on February 17. Add that to an ever-popular Fit Expo, and we've got a great weekend coming up next week.
I've taken a look at a few of the competitor lists I've seen posted on various sites and my first thought was, "Who are some of these guys?"
New Faces & Drop Outs
It looks like many Europeans are making the trip over to sunny California to compete in their IFBB pro debut. I enjoy seeing these guys for the first time on a pro stage. I saw an unknown Ronnie Rockel a couple years ago at the Iron Man and he was on the Olympia stage last year so you never know what surprises Europe might have to offer.
Speaking of surprises, we will have a new winner of the Iron Man this year. Last year's winner, Gustavo Badell, will not be competing because he has stated that he has his sights on winning the Arnold Classic.
Dexter Jackson, the 2004 Iron Man winner, is looking for a repeat win of the Arnold and will not be competing in the Iron Man again this year. Darrem Charles and Dennis James, who were on the original competitor list, will not be competing either.
Is This Lee's Big Chance?
The 2004 and 2005 Iron Man runner-up was Lee Priest. Without Gustavo and Dexter, will Lee be able to pull out a win this year? Will Lee even compete? Maybe he'll hold out for the Arnold also. I never really know who's going to be at a show until I see them on the stage.
(I was eager to see Tom Prince at the 2004 Iron Man. From the buzz across the web, he was in fantastic shape. Some last-minute dehydration problems immediately before the athletes walked out onto the stage, had caused Tom to withdraw - and to eventually retire, as fate would have it.)
| Tom Prince - Retired Pro
Bob Cicherillo gets inside the head of retired pro bodybuilder Tom Prince. You don't want to miss this in depth interview. Find out why Tom called it quits, and where he feels the sport is heading right here on The Fit Show.
If Lee Priest comes in with the conditioning he showed at last year's Arnold Classic, he will definitely be the frontrunner.
Troy Alves Has Grown!
I've seen a couple photos of Troy Alves posted on the web at about four weeks out from the Iron Man. I was amazed. He has GROWN! Especially his arms. Taking some time off from competitions has really helped him pack on some size. If Troy can bring his ultra-ripped conditioning along with his newfound mass, he'll be giving Priest some stiff competition.
Although, a few experts thought he should have won last year, I thought Alves deserved third place. He looked really good, but standing next to Badell and Priest, Troy looked small. Maybe things will change this year with Alves bringing more muscle mass to the table.
Check Out The Latest Pics Of Troy Here.
Others To Look For
The guy that I'm really looking forward to seeing is Francis Benfatto. He's making a comeback after being away from competition for nearly 10 years. I never saw Francis compete, but I did see him at the Nationals in 1990 where he was handing out trophies. He had an unbelievable shoulder-to-waist ratio and had an aesthetically pleasing physique that isn't very common these days.
Based on a few photos Milos Sarcev has posted, Francis is looking great and his legs are looking bigger than ever. It will be very interesting to see how Benfatto stacks up against today's current crop of younger physiques and how the judges place him. I'll go out on a limb and predict Benfatto will be getting the loudest applause of any athlete on stage.
Another athlete I'm looking forward to seeing is Erik Bui, who will be making his pro debut. I saw Erik compete at the California Championships a few years ago and he looked great back then. Judging from the photos in Muscular Development, he has put on some size with some really heavy training.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Check Out His Interview Here.
Ahmad Haidar, the man with the best abs in the sport, is another athlete not to be overlooked. He's got the conditioning down, but he needs to pack on a little more size to place higher and garner a few first place votes.
Last year's Olympia Wildcard winner, David Henry, has one of the best backs in bodybuilding. His back has incredible detail, which is not seen on many of today's pros. David could pull off another win at the Iron Man if his competitors are not dialed in.
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Olympia Wildcard Winner, David Henry.
View More Wildcard Pics By Irvin Gelb Here.
Derik Farnsworth really missed his peak last year. Although I don't see him placing in the top five, I'm still looking forward to seeing how he comes in this year. I have a feeling he'll be shredded and make up for a disappointing showing last year.
So Many Others:
There are many high-quality athletes scheduled to compete. Mark Dugdale, Toney Freemen and the big Art Atwood are scheduled to compete also. The prejudging should be challenging when all the athletes are standing next to one another. The judges will definitely have their work cut out for them.
Making predictions before the show is always difficult and ends up being a judgment based on past performances, but here goes nothing.
If the athletes all come in at their previous best, and all of them actually compete in the show, I see Lee Priest as the winner. No one in the line-up can match him with his freaky size. If Lee is on, he'll win.
Troy Alves will come in a close second and David Henry will be third. Mustafa Mohammad will come in fourth and fifth place will be awarded to Ahmad Haidar. Mark Dugdale will come in sixth and miss the top five. Kris Dim will just miss the top five also and place seventh.
Francis Benfatto will get the crowd's approval and place somewhere in the top ten. Now you can call me nostalgic, but I'd like to be surprised and see Benfatto place in the top three and see him on the Olympia stage this fall. Stranger things have happened. We'll have to wait and see!
|Myron's 2006 Iron Man Predictions|
One Last Note
The FitExpo, which is held in conjunction with the Iron Man Pro, is a must-see, entertaining event in itself. Not only do you get lots of free samples from the vendors and get to meet stars of the industry, but there are events like the Strongman Competition to watch.
I saw the Farmers Carry and the Axle Lift last year and was amazed at the strength and endurance of these guys. Watching them on ESPN is one thing but seeing them up close as they're straining and heaving to perform some inhuman feats of strength, is incredible.
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Axle Lift At The 2005 FitExpo.
View More Pics By SecondFocus Here.
If you live anywhere near southern California, make plans to attend this dynamic bodybuilding event. Don't miss it!