Iron Man 2008 Preview: Who Will Come Out On Top?

The first IFBB Pro show of the season is the 2008 Iron Man and will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center... Here's a quick preview of how I think the show will go. Check it out and see if you agree.

How will Phil Heath stack up with his newly acquired size? Will Toney Freeman repeat or surpass his 2007 early-season conditioning? What will King Kamali look like? Will the new venue be better or worse? These are just a few of the questions many fans are asking as the 2008 IFBB Pro Season gets underway.

The first IFBB Pro show of the season is the 2008 Iron Man and will be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, which is a change in venue from the Pasadena Convention Center where it has been held for many years. I'm looking forward to the new location. The last time I had been to the LA Convention Center was for the LA Auto Show and that was a few years back and I remember it was a good facility.

This year's purse will be $30,000 in prize money, with $15,000 going to the winner. The top five finishers will qualify for the 2008 IFBB Mr. Olympia, which will be held the last weekend in September in Las Vegas.

With seven athletes signed up who have won IFBB Pro Shows, this year's event should prove to be one of the most competitive in recent years. The following competitors will be stepping on stage to battle it out for the 19th Annual Iron Man Pro title:

In no particular order, here's a look at a few of the guys who I think will be battling out for the top placings:


-> Toney Freeman:

    Last year's Iron Man champion is returning to defend his title. After a disappointing showing at the 2007 Mr. Olympia last fall, Freeman will be looking to redeem himself. He admittedly messed up his contest prep for the Olympia, but, hey, sometimes that happens! Look for the X-Man to come in with great conditioning again and be ready to win his second Iron Man title.


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Toney Freeman - 2007 Iron Man.
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Toney Freeman 2007 Iron Man Routine.


-> Phil Heath:

    One glance at the photos that Isaac Hinds took of Phil when he was five weeks out, shows that "The Gift" has made some incredible progress. Some recent guest posing photos also show Heath looking freakishly huge — almost cartoon character freaky.

    His arms are his strong point and they are unreal looking and appear even bigger than they were last year. His conditioning is on and if he holds it he'll be giving Freeman a run for his money. There's speculation that Heath might use this show as a warm-up for the Arnold Classic and not come in as dry for the Iron Man in order to achieve his best conditioning fro the AC. We'll have to wait and see now, won't we?


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Phil Heath - 2007 Arnold.
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-> Gustavo Badell:

    Gustavo was disappointed in his placing at the Olympia. (Wasn't everybody except Cutler?) He was criticized for his legs being somewhat smaller than past contests. Maybe he's fixed that and will be looking to add a second Iron Man Title to his name.

    Badell recently signed with Weider and will be striving to make a good impression for the people who signed his contract.


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Gustavo Badell - 2007 Olympia.
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-> Silvio Samuel:

    He was last year's big fan favorite and he captured the attention of the bodybuilding world at the 2007 Iron Man. He has a few areas to bring up, most notably his delt width and back width, but conditioning has never been a problem. It's definitely his strength and he's consistently spot on. I don't see Samuel as the winner of the show, but he'll make a strong showing — again.


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Silvio Samuel - 2007 Iron Man.
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Silvio Samuel.

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-> Johnnie Jackson:

    Jackson continues to make steady progress and with several pro wins, he's becoming a force to be reckoned with. I first saw him at the 2004 Iron Man and Johnnie has made dramatic improvements to his physique since then. He's in the Milos training camp in hopes to dial it in and chalk up a win in the first show of the year.


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Johnnie Jackson - 2007 Olympia.
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-> David Henry:

    Henry made a great showing at last year's Olympia and looks like he's back to the David Henry of old with his stellar conditioning. He pushed Lee Priest to the limit at the 2006 Iron Man and placed a close second.

    Although I don't see him winning this competition with this field, he'll place well — most likely high enough for an Olympia qualification.


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David Henry - 2007 Iron Man.
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David Henry.

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-> King Kamali:

    It's been reported that King is huge and was weighing 287 only a few weeks ago. Along with Badell, he's one of the few competitors who actually appears to "compete" on stage. It's been a few years since Kamali has been on the Mr. Olympia stage and this will be a tough line-up, but I'm sure he's ready to do what's necessary to make that happen for 2008.

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King Kamali - 2006 New York Pro.
King Kamali's BodySpace.


-> Will Harris:

    Harris made the top fifteen at the Olympia, although he thought he had third place in the bag. He was in great shape. His unique posing display at the Olympia, however, was one of the big topics on the message boards across the internet. It'll be interesting to see if he includes his tip-toeing dance step in his routine at the Iron Man...


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Will Harris - 2007 Olympia.
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-> Troy Alves:

    He's been called the modern-day Frank Zane because of his aesthetically pleasing physique, but he's struggled with conditioning in past years and has been overlooked in several shows. Troy wants to win a pro show badly and maybe he'll put it all together and make 2008 the year that will happen.


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Troy Alves - 2007 Atlantic City Pro.
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-> Paco Bautista:

    Paco is always in great condition and does well in European shows - even winning a few, but he seems to not fare well in American shows. Bautista doesn't have the Troy Alves look, but he is complete and is always shredded. We'll have to see where the judges place him.


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Paco Bautista - 2007 Olympia.


-> Desmond Miller:

    Miller is the new kid on the block and did very well in his rookie season last year. He's got plenty of size and great conditioning. His waist is a little wide and his lats don't flare in his abdominal pose, but his legs are incredible.


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Desmond Miller - 2007 Keystone.
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-> Eddie Abbew:

    Abbew looked incredible at last year's Iron Man where he qualified for the Mr. Olympia. On the Olympia stage, however, Eddie appeared watery and needed to dry out.


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Eddie Abbew - 2007 Iron Man.
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Eddie Abbew.

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-> Rusty Jeffers:

    Rusty gained a lot of fans after the 2006 World Masters where many felt he should have placed higher. Jeffers always brings an athletic and balanced physique to the stage, but like many other competitors, needs to be a little sharper to place in the money. His posing ability is extraordinary and is always a treat to watch.


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Rusty Jeffers - 2007 Iron Man.
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Rusty Jeffers.

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-> Armin Scholz:

    This German dude is huge. His arms are gigantic. He has the size now he needs to work on refinement. Once he does that he could be battling it out for top placings with that other German guy who placed fifth at the Olympia last year.


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Armin Scholz - 2006 Iron Man.


-> Omar Deckard:

    Rounding out my top-fifteen of the competitors is Omar Deckard. Omar is one of the taller bodybuilders on the scene today. His legs appear really long when he's on stage, which makes him look a little thin in comparison to some of the shorter guys beside him. He's starting to fill out more and hasn't sacrificed conditioning in doing so.


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Omar Deckard - 2007 Iron Man.
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Omar Deckard.

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-> New Kids On The Block:

    I'm looking forward to seeing two rookies who will make their pro debuts at the Iron Man. They are DeShawn Grimez, who recently won the Heavyweight class at the 2007 USA, and "Sting" Ray Arde from San Jose, CA. Arde earned his pro status by winning the Heavyweight class at the 2005 NPC Nationals. There are also a number European guys that I haven't heard of who are also competing.


-> Misc.

    Missing from the line-up this year are Mark Dugdale and Ahmad Haidar. Since both have smaller, aesthetic physiques, I like to see where these guys fall in the placings when their conditioning is spot on, but it looks like I'll have to wait until next year.

    Here are a couple additional questions that a few fans might have. Who is Ken Jones and when did he get his pro card? Well, he turned pro by winning the bantamweight class at the 1996 Nationals. Ken usually has an interesting routine when he uses props, but without props his routine isn't very impressive because other guys in the competitions outweigh him by 60-80 pounds. But then again, even if he competes in the Under-202 class, he gets outweighed.


Conclusion

If you decide to make the trip to LA, you'll enjoy a great competition and also be able to enjoy the action-packed FitExpo where you'll get a chance to meet many of your favorite pros and top amateur athletes. And if you can't make it to the event in person, make sure you watch the webcast.