Reported July 27, 2003
Jones Takes Overall at USA; Dragna Also Earns Pro Card
LAS VEGAS–Richard Jones was every bit as good as advertised. The 5’7″, 198-pound Deputy Sheriff from Orange County, California arrested the rest of the field at the Artemus Ham Auditorium on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas over the weekend, winning both the Lightheavyweight class and the Overall, at the 2003 NPC USA Bodybuilding Championships.
The 29-year-old Jones, who retired from the sport a few years back to pursue a career in law enforcement, made his return to the stage in 2002, winning both the Police Games and the Los Angeles Championships before setting his sights on this season’s USA.
Sporting a physique that has been likened to Shawn Ray, the former NPC National champion and one of the IFBB’s highest ranking pro’s since 1988, Jones bested defending LHW champion Kris Dim to first take his division in unanimous fashion, then did likewise in the battle for the Overall.
In the latter skirmish, Jones toppled Superheavyweight winner Chris Cook, Heavyweight champion Mike Dragna, Middleweight titlist Jimmy Canyon, Lightweight winner Rey Ronquilo and Bantamweight victor Frank Rodrigo.
The battle for the second pro card was a tight one, with Dragna edging Canyon by a couple of tallies to join Jones as the newest members of the pro ranks.
The loss was a bitter one for Dim, who entered the fray as the pre-contest favorite after barely missing out on his pro card at last year’s USA. The biggest surprises of the event were Dragna, ninth in both the USA and Nationals last year, and Cook, a 5’11”, 246-pounder who placed third in his class at the ’02 California State Championships.
Cook’s victory means that Dave Palumbo will have to give it another shot at the Nationals in Miami to try and get that elusive IFBB card. The 5’11”, 265-pound Palumbo, second in last year’s Nationals and third at the ’02 USA, finished in the runner-up slot again.
Dragna, a 5’9″, 217-pounder out of Mililani, Hawaii, was pushed to the Heavyweight title by Lionel Brown, an impressive 215-pounder from Long Beach, CA. Dragna held a five-point lead over Brown after the Friday night pre-judging, but Brown received five first place votes in the re-judging at the Finals to give Dragna some nervous moments before the latter was crowned the winner.
An in-depth pictorial of the event can be viewed at the IRONMAN contest gallery.