So far in 2006, we have had eight different IFBB Pro Men's Champions. The latest champ is Toney Freeman who won the 2006 Europa Pro show on Saturday, August 26. Freeman also qualified for the Mr. Olympia, which will be held in Las Vegas on September 30.
In the early 1980's Chris Dickerson and Boyer Coe won most of the shows. Then it was Albert Beckles' and Mohamed Makkawy's turn. Later Rich Gaspari and then Vince Taylor started winning the shows. Flex Wheeler, Kevin Levrone and Chris Cormier ruled the 1990's.
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John Ramano & Flex Wheeler Were There All Weekend. Check Out John's New Article On Lee Priest That Will Be In The Next Issue Of Muscular Development.
With six pro wins, Darrem Charles seemed to be poised to take over as king of the smaller shows, but he's been winless after four attempts this year. The tides appear to be changing and rather than the same two or three faces winning every IFBB Pro show during the year, a variety of athletes are winning this year. It's actually refreshing. I'm sure Toney Freeman wholeheartedly agrees.
The Big Guys Ruled
From the first callout, it was obvious that in this contest the big men would be favored. Not only were they just big, however, they were in tremendous condition and Darrem looked to be a little soft. Toney Freeman and Quincy Taylor had nailed their conditioning and would be battling it out with Johnny Jackson for first-place honors. Although not as aesthetically pleasing as the other physiques, Art Atwood was not to be overlooked, as he was huge and in fantastic shape too.
When a tall competitor is on stage and weighs close to 300 pounds in shredded condition, it's hard not to overlook the guys standing next to him. Seeing Taylor and Freeman next to each other reminded me of Coleman and Cutler. Everyone else standing next to them looked small. That's how it was at the Europa. Freeman and Taylor dwarfed everyone - except that other guy by the name of Joel Stubbs, who made quite an impression of his own.
The placing of two of the competitors was surprising. Darrem Charles was the heavy favorite and predicted by most (including here's truly) to win the show. He placed fourth. I thought he deserved fourth, but I was actually startled when he got it. Freeman and Taylor have been overlooked in other shows and I thought the trend might continue, but thankfully it didn't.
King Kamali's placing was surprising also. Somehow King seems to place higher in most contests than I think he should. At this show, however, he came in smooth and didn't even make the top ten. His physique continues to get blockier, his arms haven't grown and his waistline needs to be much more streamlined.
He has a knack for getting lots of attention before and after shows, but he hasn't been able to produce the physique lately that brings home higher placings.
Joel Stubbs is huge! I mean REALLY huge! His back really does rival Ronnie's. Bob Cicherillo said on the commentary that he reminds him of a young Coleman and his legs only need to be brought up to be a force to be reckoned with. I agree. This guy has mass and unbelievable shape and separation. When he turned around, no one was close to beating him in a best-back category. Stubbs is one to watch in the near future.
Posing & Presentation
Frankly I was a little disappointed at the routines. King won best presentation with an unoriginal routine. I've seen Gustavo and Rusty Jeffers both do a "tribute" routine in the past and I liked Gustavo's and Rusty's better than King's. Darrem Charles and Melvin Anthony can still pull off the lock-and-pop stuff, but even with them, it's getting old.
Although I liked the executioner costume of Toney Freeman, the rest of the props seemed rather silly. Roberson came out in the cowboy hat as usual and Rodney St. Cloud started by wearing a hat and something wrapped around his arms and torso that looked like IV tubing. I'm still not sure what that was.
The end of St. Cloud's routine was actually pretty good and it would have been more effective to start the routine like that and leave the hat at home and the IV tubing at the hospital.
Mass With Class
As I stated earlier it was refreshing to see new faces in the top spots. Big Quincy Taylor, who was disappointed with his Olympia showing last year, gets another shot at the "O" next month. Johnny Jackson, who is built like a small tank and probably stronger, re-qualified for the Olympia as well.
Toney Freeman has been steadily climbing up in the placings and deserved to win the Europa show. Except for his pec tear, which is filling in nicely, Freeman didn't show any major weaknesses. He has good symmetry and proportion along with a lot of muscle mass.
He's tall and is starting to fill out more in each showing. Consequently, he no longer has the lanky look that taller competitors tend to have. Freeman will stand on the Olympia stage next month and will most likely crack the top ten in his first appearance.
Congrats, Toney! You've earned it!