The 2006 NY Pro was held at the Tribecca Performing Arts Center, in New York, NY May 20th, 2006. Promoters Steve Weinberger and Bev Francis assembled their experienced team and put together a smooth running no-hitch professional show complete with a special performance from Tatianna Butler doing her best as Tina Turner to the delight of the sold out arena.
A very competitive lineup of 34 IFBB Pros took the stage as the judging panel whittled them down to a field of 15 that would duke it out at the finals. It became apparent at the pre-judging that we would be seeing a rematch of the Colorado Pro (held just 1 week earlier) of rookie phenom Phil "The Gift" Heath, and IFBB veteran Darrem Charles for the title.
The field was deep as George Farah, Rodney St. Cloud, Jay Arntz, Pavol Jablonicky, and Jaroslav Horvath also were in excellent condition. A few names were notably absent from the scene: Gary Strydom, Marcus Haley, Toney Freeman and Markus Ruhl all decided to sit this one out for one reason or another and will compete later this year in the Atlantic City Pro, Hungary Grand prix, Spanish G.P., or Europa Pro.
To show you the depth of the field, here are a few of the guys that did NOT make the top 15: Johnny Moya, Alexander Federov, Kai Greene and Jeff "Box" Long.
|2006 Colorado Pro/Am Classic Highlights|
The Top 9
Handicapping the top 9, here's how I saw it:
9. Jeroslav Horvath:
Great lines, nice flow to his physique, best abs of the night, however still too small in this lineup to break into the top spots.
8. Rodney St. Cloud:
Brought up his conditioning quite a few notches this year, looked great in Colorado, conditioning about the same in NY, very entertaining routine.
7. George Farah:
Brought his A-game conditioning and was very competitive with the top 5. Has one of the best backs in the show with David Henry, however hamstrings need more size, along with calves.
6. King Kamali:
Looked great when first called although he seemed to fade a bit as pre-judging went on. His conditioning was good, but not quite as good as his Iron Man debut in 2001. He still needs to come in 5-7 lbs. lighter to balance physique out - as usual, one of the most entertaining routines of the night.
5. Bill Willmore:
One of the big men in the show. He has great thickness but still needs calves. He has qualified for his first Olympia as a rookie pro. Two great showings in as many pro shows.
4. David Henry:
Best conditioned athlete of the night. He was tighter than 1 week earlier (Mr. Consistent), and only has flaws with his size and presentation. He is a threat at any show - could be a great dark horse pick for the top 10 in Vegas.
3. Dennis James:
Brought it down in terms of weight. Was very tight and conditioned - out muscled everyone on the stage with improved back development and leg detail. Won the Bodybuilding.com Fan's Choice Award and Best Legs Award. Top ten in Vegas for sure.
2. Darrem Charles:
The consummate professional was very polished. Could have won without any question - he was sharper than at the Colorado Pro and was leading after pre-judging. The New York audience had him as the winner, won best arms award... only flaw was the guy standing next to him.
1. Phil Heath:
2 for 2 as a pro and has yet to lose a show. In addition he has only lost 1 round TOTAL in his history of competing. Very complete, very pretty physique, best delt/arm combo since LeVrone was ruling the stage. Legitimate top 5-7 contender at the Olympia as a Rookie pro.
Pre-judging was pretty much a 4-man race for the title - Phil, Darrem, David, Dennis established themselves right away.
More than a handful of people thought David Henry could have gone as high as 2nd place given his level of conditioning.
King had a few run-ins with George Farah and Jeroslav Horvath in the callouts, a little pushing and shoving. As Jeroslav stepped in front of King to hit a pose, King bumped him out of the way with a most muscular and said, "Not in MY house, buddy!" A little gamesmanship is O.K., but King may have gotten a little too feisty as the judging continued. BUT... That's King; always ready to rumble and has his game face on from the word go.
Darrem was visibly upset when his name was announced in second. The crowd booed the decision, as he was clearly a fan favorite in NY. Always a gentlemen and professional, he was quick to shake Phil's hand and took the defeat in stride.
Alexander Federov has yet to produce the physique that stood toe to toe with Ronnie and Jay in Russia 2 years ago. Much like his highly anticipated Olympia debut in '05; Alex was smooth and unimpressive. Still young, he needs to bring up the chest and come in condition to be any threat to the top 10.
One of the young guns, Edson Prado,showed a bright future with a great physique. Lots of muscle and potential, just need to work on balance, symmetry, and presentation.
The judges did a nice job, and I thought the placings were for the most part, spot on, save for Phil/Darrem, which could have just as easily gone the other way. There were many crossover comparisons at the pre-judging, and took their time comparing everyone.
Overall, the show was a concise, well run production due in no small effort to the expediting team of IFBB Pro Kim Klein, husband Mike, and longtime NPC/IFBB organizer Steve Stone (just to name a few), who all made my job as MC a breeze. As usual, you can't beat a NY crowd as they will let you know quickly whether they like you, or if they don't.