PASADENA, Calif.—It was billed as a battle between Gustavo Badell, Lee Priest and Melvin
'05 IRON MAN PRO
1) Gustavo Badell*
2) Lee Priest*
3) Troy Alves*
4) Melvin Anthony
5) Shari 'King' Kamali
6) Craig Titus
7) David Henry
8) Mark Dugdale
9) Mike Morris
10) Idrise Ward-El
*Qualifies for the Mr. Olympia.
Anthony, with Troy Alves considered the X factor. And for the most part that's the way the latest edition of the IRON MAN Pro went down on Saturday, February 19, before a large, albeit rain-soaked, crowd at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
Priest, a huge fan favorite, was coming off his third runner-up finish at the contest: At the '04 affair he landed behind Dexter Jackson but ahead of Badell, who, up to that point in his career, basically had been a guy filling out the
lineup. In 2004, however, Badell also filled out his thick frame. He opened the year by taking third at the IM and ended it with the exact same placing'this time ahead of Jackson at the Mr. Olympia.
Anthony was making his first appearance onstage since he won the '04 Night of Champions last May; Alves, fourth in the IM and eighth in the Olympia in 2003, had vowed to be back in top form after a dismal '04, when he took 15th at the O.
At the press conference/weigh-in, held a day before at 4 p.m., Badell surprised the fans by tipping the scales at 250 pounds, 16 more than last year. Could the Carolina, Puerto Rico, resident possibly match his condition of '04 at that size? As he did last season, Badell peeled off his sweats at the weigh-in and displayed a large, conditioned physique that didn't appear to be quite as sharp as last year, but it was close'despite the added mass.
At the 10 a.m. prejudging the first callout included the obvious suspects: Priest in the center, Badell on one side and Anthony on the other. Alves, for some strange reason, was the fourth athlete to join the group. That was the symmetry round, correct? The 38-year-old from Phoenix, who weighed in at 221, has great shape and structure, with a small waist and full, round muscle bellies. And, for the first time since I can remember, his glutes'a subject of continual scrutiny'had striations. (And where was David Henry, while we're at it? More on that later.)
Oh, Alves isn't flawless; who is? He needs a bit more thickness in his chest and legs, and his triceps need improvement. Still, here's a guy I called the Frank Zane of the new millennium a couple of years back'now you can see why.
Priest should have posed to 'Super Freak,' 'cause that's what he was, at least in his upper body from the front. The 32-year-old Australian transplant has the best overall arm development in the history of the game (although Ronnie Coleman took exception to that statement'who'd he give the nod to, I wonder). Great abs and delts, with veins popping out here, there and everywhere upstairs. Actually, the dominance Lee shows in those bodyparts hurt him a bit in his most muscular pose because they overpower his chest.
Lee was five pounds heavier than last year (203 vs. 198) and had wowed the fans with incredible precontest pics on the Internet beginning a month out from the competition. As in the past, however, the two things that have haunted him'lack of thigh separation and soft glutes'were evident. Is it genetic? I mean, who trains harder than that guy? Then again, I never thought I'd see striations in Alves' fanny. ALL Badell was big, thick and grainy; I disagreed vehemently with one member of the media who thought Gustavo was about 75 percent of his best and was obviously zeroing in on the Arnold Classic, which was scheduled for two weeks later. No, Badell wasn't quite as sharp as he'd been at the Olympia, but he was at least 90 percent and definitely a title contender. With all that muscle, how could he not be?
Anthony has beautiful lines set off by a 27-inch waist, but he wasn't nearly hard enough to challenge for the crown in this one. No matter how much water he was holding, though, he remained the fave to win the newly established Vince Gironda Award for Outstanding Presentation. Shari 'King' Kamali weighed in at more than 250 pounds and assured me he was in his best condition ever (he'd reached his previous best shape at the '01 IM, where he made his pro debut), and I might agree with him on that. Kamali was big and hard, especially in the upper body; his abs and back were outstanding, and his arms'a real sore spot in the past'were larger than usual. His legs looked pretty good, although not up to the standards of his wide upper body. All in all, it was an improved Kamali who hit the Civic Auditorium stage.
Kamali's nemesis throughout his pro career, Craig Titus, also looked better than he did last year, when he placed fifth. Craig, who weighed in at 238, was hard and displayed great triceps and hamstrings. His thighs and back weren't chopped liver either. Titus' lack of depth in his chest continues to plague him, though.
Henry, who finished two points behind Titus last year to land in sixth in his pro debut, was in spectacular condition. At 5'5' and 190 pounds, the Air Force officer lacks only a bit of leg development and back width to go pose for pose with the best. Even so, Henry was the best-conditioned man onstage, superdry and with grade-A detail. He was also the only competitor with a smaller waist than Anthony's.
It's guys like Henry who make me swing to the side of those pushing for weight classes in men's pro bodybuilding. Can you imagine a lineup of under-210 flexers? Priest, Henry, Mark Dugdale, an in-shape Jimmy Canyon? Possibly Dexter Jackson (who claims to be 225, of course)? An out-of-retirement Shawn Ray? Shoot, even Alves could make the cut if weight classes were instituted. Whaddya think, gang?
On the subject of Dugdale, the 30-year-old from Woodinville, Washington, was making his pro debut after winning the '04 USA last July, and he looked very good, coming in about 10 pounds heavier than the 196 he weighed at that show. Mark has great legs and calves, and his side-chest shot shows off those wicked hamstrings. Dugdale is always in fine condition, and this was no exception. He gets an A on his report card for his initial attempt on the flex-for-pay circuit.
Mike Morris, the former North American champion, made his first appearance at the IRON MAN. He was in good shape and had some of the better wheels in the lineup. Idrise Ward-El was in much better condition than last year, but a couple of tears in his biceps and right quad prevented the 5'11' 250-pounder from getting better callouts, I would imagine.
JoJo Ntiforo, who won the heavyweight class at the '02 Nationals, and Rusty Jeffers, who nabbed a pro card at the Masters Nationals last year after 26 years of competing, also held their own in the 22-man lineup.
After the judging was completed, Badell held a seven-point advantage over Priest, who had a seven-point lead over Alves. Anthony was a digit behind Troy, setting the stage for the finals.
When Priest beat Badell by three points in the posing round, Gustavo's lead dropped to four points going into the posedown. Marvelous Melvin's spectacular posing routine, which had the crowd demanding an encore, vaulted him past Alves and into third; at that point Alves stood 18 back of Priest, 22 back of Badell and three back of Anthony. In round four'a heated posedown in which Badell and Alves got a bit feisty, especially during a back double-biceps pose'Gustavo recorded straight ones to win the show and the $10,000 first-place check that came along for the ride.
Alves edged Priest by a point in the posedown to move past Melvin again into third, joining Priest, the runner-up, in earning an Olympia qualification (Badell was already qualified). Anthony was close but no cigar, finishing five points behind Alves in fourth.
Melvin didn't finish behind anybody, though, in the tabulations for the Vince Gironda Award, initiated by IRON MAN publisher John Balik, who promoted the contest with IM creative director Michael Neveux. The judging team of Ronnie Coleman, Shawn Ray, Jim Morris and Adela Garcia-Friedmansky unanimously named Anthony as the winner of the first-time award; Anthony came to the microphone and promptly announced that he was donating the $1,000 prize to the sixth-place finisher, who was not scheduled to receive a money award. That turned out to be Titus. With no disrespect to Vince Taylor and Darrem Charles, I think Melvin's display might have been the best all-around routine ever. If you didn't see it, check it out at www.graphicmuscle.com.
In an unusual move, another $4,000 was added to the $20,000 total purse when Russ DeLuca of Bodybuilding.com cut a check for $3,000 and a group of local officials added another $1,000: Rex Gutierrez, council member, City of Rancho Cucamonga; Debbie O'Connor, mayor pro tem, City of Diamond Bar; Aquanetta Warren, council member, City of Fontana; Janice Rutherford, council member, City of Fontana; John Roberts, mayor pro tem, City of Pasadena; and Josie Gonzalez, supervisor, County of San Bernardino. Balik decided to divvy up the cash by giving $400 each to the men who finished sixth through 15th.
Two living legends of the industry, Albert Busek and Jim Lorimer, were also honored during the evening. Busek, who flew in from Munich, Germany, received the Art Zeller Award for Artistic Achievement in photography, while Lorimer took a break from his nonstop schedule before the Arnold Fitness Weekend to come from Columbus, Ohio, to get the Peary and Mabel Rader Lifetime Achievement Award. Videos of both men, complete with voice-over background information, were shown on a large screen.
Carol Bratcher, the wife of IM art director Terry Bratcher, also joined in the festivities, opening the evening with a grand rendition of the national anthem. As always, Terry teamed with Neveux and his staff to put together a superb set design. Thumbs-up to the IRON MAN team for getting another new season off to a rousing start. IM