On September 16 at New York's Town Hall, the first ever Pro Division Incorporated (PDI) show, The Night Of Champions XXVII, will showcase new and established bodybuilding talent, in what is hoped to be a giant move forward for a sport many say is losing its fan base.
PDI head Wayne Demilia has selected a base of athletes noted for their symmetry, aesthetics, and entertainment value as well as muscle size and definition, five factors he feels need to be addressed equally in order to give the fans a taste of what bodybuilding, in his view, should encompass.
Two notable champions, Vince Taylor and Lee Priest will grace the stage in New York along with several relatively unknown men of whom much is expected. One such athlete, Jack London, will be aiming to make his mark with his gargantuan size - 5.8, 255lbs - and rock hard conditioning.
As a bodybuilder, Jack, the first athlete to sign with the PDI, has been slowly and steadily working his way into the limelight - the Night Of Champions (NOC), his professional debut, will position him as a legitimate pro and a man whose mass, symmetry and entertainment value will help attract more fans to the sport.
Having qualified for pro status with a win at the 1996 North America, Jack took some time away from the sport to focus on family commitments. His big comeback year was in 2004, where he snatched victory at the Mr. Pennsylvania. Since then Jack has gained significant muscle size and is ready to fight at the NOC, an event he feels will usher in a new era of bodybuilding, one where the fan will get excitement and quality muscle at its best.
Big things are expected of Jack, and he assures the bodybuilding world he will be bringing it hard come September. I recently spoke to Jack and shared his views on the PDI and told me of his plans. The interview follows.
[ Q ] How did your historic signing with the PDI come about Jack?
I contacted Wayne. I had spoken to a couple of friends and I understood I had the qualifications to sign up to be a pro with the PDI, so I e-mailed Wayne and he knew who I was. Quickly we confirmed my qualifications, and he invited me to be a part of it. Then it sort of took off from there. I mean it has been kind of crazy because since then I have become one of the most talked about bodybuilders.
[ Q ] So the signing was a big moment for you?
Yes, I did that on purpose because I wanted to show my commitment to the PDI and Wayne, and also get the publicity that I have been trying to get. I think with other federations, some people get lost in the shuffle. Not to say anything bad about any other organizations, but this (the PDI) has been history in the making and I am a pretty good bodybuilder. I can stand up with the best of them and now I get my chance to.
[ Q ] What are your thoughts on the PDI? What will your competition be like and what are your goals?
Obviously Lee Priest will be the man to beat, and Vince Taylor will be there. My goal really is to place in the top eight and make a name for myself. I want to go in there and fight as hard as I can, but I don't kid myself: Lee Priest is one of the best bodybuilders on the planet.
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My expectations are realistic. I want to get qualified to go on the European tour, I want to sign with a company and get a real nice endorsement, and my real dream is to be on the cover of a magazine. That is where it is at for me. That is why I did this. I felt at this point in my life that this is my opportunity to shine.
[ Q ] What exactly do you know about the PDI? What information has been released?
There is a lot of information being released. Wayne is releasing things as they happen and as he sees fit. There has been a lot of talk about sponsorship and whether or not there will be a Night of Champions. I can tell you that we have sponsors and there will be a Night of Champions.
As well as that there will be three shows in Europe. We have a lot of named and unnamed sponsorship right now - companies that have committed, and those that have committed but have not gone public with this information yet. I think a lot of people want to see it work, and I think a lot of people who are sceptical want to see it work.
A lot of people are scared to make that jump, the big leap, but I think it will be good for everybody involved whether you are in the NPC, the IFBB or the PDI, I think the added competition will raise the bar for everybody and raise the standard for everybody.
If there is only one feeding ground it becomes much like a monopoly where things happen that shouldn't happen, when there is too much control by one federation. I have a lot of faith in Wayne - he is a fair person, and a good man and I think we are going to have a good time.
[ Q ] What will the PDI provide for the fans do you think?
I think one thing the PDI will bring is the unknown. A lot of people are saying, "Lee Priest is going to win and Vince Taylor is going to take second" and so on. I wouldn't be so quick to jump to those decisions. This is not going to be a situation where a bodybuilder is going to win just because of his name.
If Lee doesn't show up in shape, Lee is not going to win. One of the things it is going to bring is fairness, a sense of these are the places these guys should be in. I have a very strong feeling that everyone that participates in the PDI will be very happy. The other thing the PDI is going to bring is entertainment value.
You know, I am The Rhino - that is my nickname, and that's my shtick. My posing routine, without telling you too much, will be based around that. We will all have an entertainment piece. A lot of people, in answer to that, would say, "What about the WBF? People say it failed because of that.
The WBF didn't fail because of that, the WBF failed because it lost credibility. In that last year when Strydom won, he shouldn't have won. Everyone knew that McMahon fixed it as he did with wrestling - he treated it like wrestling. Gary is a good friend of mine, and I have nothing against him, but that last year he really should not have won. It was set up. The PDI is not set up. This is a case of let the best man win and let the athletes have fun.
[ Q ] What else can we expect?
This federation is going to bring a fan base back to bodybuilding, that bodybuilding has lost. There are certain types of fans who just can't relate to a Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler. For example, the college guys who say I will never be like that, and so I can't relate to that.
The PDI is going to gear more towards proportion and symmetry. Obviously size is important, I'm a big guy. But the PDI wants bodybuilders who are well proportioned and look good, who have nice presentation and shape. Let us not also forget the onstage and the offstage profile of bodybuilders.
I would consider myself somewhat different to the many pro bodybuilders, as I have an education and a career in finance. So I am used to dealing with people on the corporate level, so I am a little more articulate than the rest, and I think the PDI is going to want a well-rounded athlete who is going to interact well with the fans.
We need bodybuilders who are going to interact with the fans, who are not going to be bothered by signing autographs because they don't feel like standing there talking to somebody. It's not really a hard job to do.
[ Q ] Many feel the entertainment factor is what bodybuilding is lacking today. The PDI will increase the entertainment value of bodybuilding for the fans?
I think the entertainment thing is huge as long as it is done tastefully, which I believe Wayne is going to allow for. I don't know how many bodybuilding shows you have been to, but I have been to hundreds. And they are boring.
You sit through the judging and its a quarter turn to the right. The athletes do their routines to music, which are all basically the same. I don't go to bodybuilding shows anymore unless I'm competing. I want to see somebody do something fun, something that is going to excite me.
[ Q ] Is Wayne specifically targeting athletes who are known for their entertainment value, proportion and ability to interact with fans? Is he looking for other qualities?
Absolutely. We are looking for bodybuilders who are first of all proportioned, and who do not have the big gut sticking out, bodybuilders who are muscular, but who also have symmetry and presentation. I am a big bodybuilder and I like the big guys, but I know that is what Wayne is looking for (more aesthetics).
Wayne is looking for a bodybuilder who the average Joe fan can identify with. We need to bring the fans back. When Wayne ran the Olympia, back in 97-98, there were 5500 people in those seats. Last year I think there were about 1800. Every year the Olympia dwindles a little bit more, for a couple of reasons.
First of all, everybody in the bodybuilding world knows what is going to happen. As usual, Ronnie will win, Jay will take second and probably Dexter will take third. Most people are saying to me, "Jack, I'm going to the Night of Champions because I want to see what is going to happen."
People don't know what I am going to look like for example. Some say I look good in some pictures and sh!tty in others. People say maybe you can beat a Lee Priest. The point is there is uncertainty, which will give the fans something different. It is more exciting for them not to know what is going to happen, who is going to be there, who is not going to be there. Compared to the Olympia where you will go along and see the same old thing, the same old routines, the same old Ronnie wins and Jay takes second.
The PDI will be a great opportunity for athletes to do things they couldn't do before. Who said the NPC was the be all and end all? Who said the best bodybuilding athletes in the world are in the NPC? The people from the NPC? Because there are people from NABBA that I have seen in Europe who are really great athletes, but they are never seen because they don't compete in America.
There is no NPC in Europe. So there will be a lot for the athletes and a lot for the fans. The fans are going to get to see a different type of bodybuilder. I will probably be the biggest guy there at 260lbs onstage - I'm a mass guy. But the fact is, there are a lot of people out there who look at a Ronnie, look at a Jay and they say "that is a little too big for me; I'm never going to look like that so why even bother."
What The PDI Promises Its Athletes:
- For each competition/event, a minimum of eight (8) athletes will receive full expenses.
- The expense money for athletes will be $75 US per night.
- Promoters will pay hotel costs for additional, if not all other competing athletes.
- The minimum prize money per show will be $30,000 US.
- The prize money will be raised every two years.
[ Q ] So whom will we be seeing up onstage in September? I know Vince Taylor, Lee Priest, Vinny Galanti and yourself will be there. Who else?
The athletes will include Andreas Frey, Steve Sinton from Europe, Sami Al-Haddad from the Middle East and massive US bodybuilder Sean Allen, in addition to about half a dozen IFBB pros who are considering it - I would rather not mention their names because I think it wouldn't be fair to them.
At 5.9 and 215lbs, is the 2004 NABBA Mr. World and NABBA amateur Mr. Universe winner. He has also won the Mr. Scotland four times.
6.3 and 280lbs, is a Mr. Germany titleholder, a three-time winner of the NABBA International/NAC Mr. World title, and was the 2005 overall NABBA International/NAC Mr. Universe winner.
is one of the largest bodybuilders around at 6.4 and 300lbs, with a 64-inch chest and over 23-inch arms. Sean is the 2002 super heavyweight Junior Nationals champion.
5.8 and 205lbs, has won just about every major title in the Middle East. His most recent major victory was at the 2005 Pro World. He is noted for his great aesthetics, which include 21-inch arms and a 29-inch waist.
[ Q ] So what got you started in bodybuilding Jack?
Well, I was a powerlifter first. I started lifting when I was 12 years old and eventually got into power lifting. And I was a collegiate national, and was an NCA all American and a national champion. I was really heavy at one point - about 340lbs, with a 44-inch waist. I was really fat.
I just decided I wanted to start losing weight. I wanted to get a girl basically. So I really didn't think about bodybuilding back then, I just wanted to get in shape. At about the age of 20 - over the course of one year - I went from 340 to about 190lbs. Well, some girl came up to me and said,
you should try bodybuilding."
I didn't even really know much about it. So I tried it and here we are. I didn't really choose bodybuilding. Bodybuilding chose me.
[ Q ] When did you make most of your gains?
I have made a lot of improvements especially in the last three years.
[ Q ] How so?
Well what happened was in 1996 I won the North America - Wayne granted me pro status based on my North American win - and in 97 I took third in the world championships with NABBA. The latter was a big feat. For an American to go over there and win a top placing with NABBA Europe it is big. You are the underdog, the outcast.
After that, things really started to take off, but then I got married. I married a woman who really didn't like bodybuilding, so I retired. I retired for about seven years and subsequently got divorced.
I got back into the scene in 2003, competed again in 2004 at the Mr. Pennsylvania, which I won. Last year I competed in the NPC. I really don't want to get into it, but I wasn't very happy with my results and some of the things I saw going on. I was going to quit. I was done - until I found out about the PDI. And I found out about the PDI when I was at the Arnold Classic with Universal Nutrition.
So that is when it all started. Now here I am in the best shape of my life, with the best attitude of my life and I'm going to be doing my pro debut. You know, a lot of people don't think I deserve it; a lot of people don't think I should be going up onstage as a pro. My goal is to show them that I deserve to be standing next to Vince Taylor and Lee Priest, and that I am as good as any other bodybuilder in the world. And that's what I'm going to do - one thing I can guarantee: when this is all said and done, people are not going to say I didn't deserve to be up there with the best.
[ Q ] So you have begun dieting for the Night of Champions?
Oh yeah. But I'm already in shape. I have striations in my glutes and veins in my stomach, and I'm 260 right now.
[ Q ] So what weight will you be onstage?
Between 250 and 260, and I'm about 5.8 and a half.
[ Q ] What would you consider to be your main strengths as a bodybuilder?
I think my best body parts would be my legs and shoulders. Also, my back is strong. And I'm a size guy, but I get into pretty good condition. Yes, my legs are pretty freaky.
[ Q ] What training style do you use?
I used to do a lot of power, but now I focus mainly on high reps and volume. I tend to get a better pump out of that. I train heavy, but not as heavy as I used to. At one time I benched over 600lbs. This is without a shirt. In the powerlifting world if I were to bench 600lbs without a shirt, I could bench 900 with a shirt. I do reasonably high sets. For example, I do 20 sets for chest and 15 sets for biceps, 22 for back, and 22 for shoulders, 14 for calves.
[ Q ] What else do you do training-wise to get the kinds of results you have achieved?
I do train very instinctively. In other words, I don't really know what body part I'm going to train, or what I am going to do on any given day when I go to the gym. The only thing I know is that I'm going to hit every body part once during the week. So I might train chest on Monday one week, and on Wednesday another week. It all depends on how I feel and what I want to do. Everything changes all the time.
[ Q ] What is your diet like pre-contest?
What has been working for me as of late is a high protein, moderate carbohydrate diet. I tried zero carbs, low carb, cycling carbs, and what I find best is to keep them moderately low, and keep my protein as high as possible. If I'm hungry I just eat more, I just keep it instinctive.
One product I do use is a protein supplement called Nitrean, made by At Large Nutrition. I live by that. What I found is it has the most protein per volume, and it really helps me to get enough of this important nutrient. I'm trying to get 400-500 grams of protein per day, and two or three of my meals will be the shakes.
[ Q ] What about fat intake?
I do supplement with natural peanut butter. It all depends on how I feel. If I'm hungry then I will eat more. I don't count my fats. Obviously I don't eat bad fats, but I do eat whole eggs, all natural peanut butter and a lot of red meat. I don't eat much chicken. I guess my fats are a little higher than normal. I need it because I don't eat excessive amounts of carbs.
[ Q ] Do you do much cardio?
No, I don't do any cardio unless I need to before a show. I do keep my self very lean. When you are 260 with single digit body fat levels, you just don't need all the cardio. I seem to be getting leaner and leaner every day.
[ Q ] You feel cardio burns too much muscle?
Yes, and that is what happened to me last year. I came down a little too light and I think that was due to the cardio. I was walking on the treadmill every day. What I find is the bigger I get the less cardio I need to get in shape.
[ Q ] So you will do some cardio about four weeks out from the show?
Yes, about four to six weeks depending on how I look. Just to tighten up my lower back and skin overall. I do a little bit because I think it is good for you, but I usually don't use it as a fat burning tool anymore. I rely specifically on my diet.
[ Q ] Do you do any last week things to get into contest shape?
No, I don't believe in that. I never understood why bodybuilders would do something that works for 14 weeks and get into great shape, only to do something completely different the last week before the show. Obviously I do dry out the last few days. This year the PDI will have drug testing, so there won't be any diuretics or anything like that. So what I will probably do is increase my water for three or four days as this is a natural diuretic and then the day before the show I will cut my water - that's all.
[ Q ] Nothing too extreme.
No. I have done that before and almost killed myself. What happens is you end up losing all your size and I'm not going to do that this year. The only way I am going to be competitive is to be as big as I can. So my goal is, from a mass to height ratio, be the biggest guy on that stage.
[ Q ] Can you talk more about the judging criteria the PDI will use?
[ Q ] What are your long-term bodybuilding goals?
I want to make my mark, whatever that means. I would like to get a contract with a supplement company where I can focus solely on bodybuilding for a year. I would also love to make the cover of a magazine. As far as long terms goals, I would just like to make my place as someone who was a trail blazer, someone who had the guts to stand up and do something different and didn't back down.
Another thing I would like to do is a be a role model for other bodybuilders so they can understand that bodybuilding is something that can be fun, and that it should be looked at in the perspective of a sport and a hobby, not a profession to make money from.
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[ Q ] How would you like to achieve that last goal?
Just by living the way I have been living. I have a regular job, and I earn my living from my job. Bodybuilding is my fun; it is my golf, my sport. It is not the end of the world if I win or lose. It is not the end of the world if Jim Manion doesn't like me, if I don't get a supplement contract - my life will go on.
I have a well-rounded life. Any life coach will tell you that it is good to have a well-rounded life. The only way you can really do that is by preaching it, and the only way you can preach it is by being it.
[ Q ] Speaking of your life outside of bodybuilding, what is your other career?
I am in the finance business. I run a territory for Citigroup bank, and do technology finance, which means I finance technology such as computers for large corporations.
[ Q ] Is this job in any way compatible with your bodybuilding life? Does it give you the required flexibility?
No. It is like another side of my life, and had nothing to do with bodybuilding. I have an education in finance and have been in the financial services business for about 12 years. I make a six-figure income from this job so I don't need the other things bodybuilders need.
This is not to say I haven't stopped striving to get a good endorsement from a major company. I already have several endorsements, but I have yet to sign a real solid, good paying endorsement that will make it real easy for me to pursue bodybuilding.
[ Q ] I guess a big contract will hinge on a number of things, including how well you do in the PDI and how well the PDI does as a federation. How do you feel the PDI will do ultimately?
It will do quite well. It is going to take some time, but it will be fine.
[ Q ] Who are your current sponsors?
I also have been getting some help from B#lk N#trition and right now we are negotiating a contract. I have gotten some good exposure, but right now I want to find a company that wants to pay the 'Rhino' to be their athlete.
[ Q ] You spoke before about being happy in your life, and your winning attitude has come though in this interview. What else in your life makes you happy?
Well, I have a seven-year-old daughter and we go to the movies and do other things. I just try to have a real quiet life. What I try to do is have different sides to my life. I have my bodybuilding and I have work. I also try to get away from the bodybuilding and work, and just relax.
My girlfriend helps me round myself out a lot. She will take me to the museum. We just saw the Andrew Wyatt exhibition here in Philadelphia. We also saw Salvador Dali's exhibition. Just things like that. So we try to do a little bit of everything and not be too consumed with any one thing.
[ Q ] I understand you have a clothing line. How is this going?
It is going really well. It is Team Rhino Clothing and it is on our site, www.londonisburning.com. You can click on there to find Rhino muscle tops, hats and kids clothes and so on. It is pretty popular. I have people all over the world order stuff.
[ Q ] Good luck with your pro debut Jack. Is there anything else you would like to mention?
I just want everybody to know I'm going to be bringing it hard in September, and don't be writing me off as someone who shouldn't be up on that stage, because when it is all said and done, everybody's going to be a believer. There are a lot of believers now, but there will be even more when I'm done.