January 29th, 2008
For the first half of 2007, Toney Freeman was flying high. Two wins Â at the Ironman Pro and the Sacramento Pro Â and a third-place finish at the Arnold put Freeman in the driverÂs seat to make a run at the top five, if not the top three, at the 07 Olympia. Unfortunately for Freeman, thatÂs where the wheels came off, as an illness he suffered the week before the contest all but erased his chances. When it was all said and done, Freeman dropped all the way to 13th. Now, a rejunivated Freeman has his sights set on redemption in 2008, starting with the defense of his Ironman Pro title on February 16.
FLEXONLINE: HOW BIG OF A DISAPPOINTMENT WAS THE 2007 OLYMPIA?
TONEY FREEMAN: Getting sick at last minute was a huge disappointment and the aftermath of the Olympia was a huge disappointment. But when I look back on it, those things were necessary to get me where I am today. When people see me at the spring shows theyÂll know what IÂm talking about. I kind of went through a cleansing process. There was a lot of hype and what not because of how well I did in the spring, so I expected more myself than probably everybody else expected of me. I did some things different and probably 90 percent of it worked. But I fell ill the last week and wasnÂt able to pull it together. It WwsnÂt the first time I got sick the week before a show but all the other times I was able to pull it all together.
FLEX: WHY DO YOU THINK THINGS WENT WRONG?
TF: I had set a goal for myself to be a certain size, and certain look and all that and itÂs unnecessary. RonnieÂs gone now so I donÂt have to focus on all that trying be big and competing at 300 pounds. I wanted to see if I could do it, but at this level itÂs all about quality. IF hadnÂt got sick I think people would have really been shocked, because I was around 288 which is the biggest IÂve ever been and I was in really good condition. But at the last minute the bottom fell out. But I look back on it now and can actually say IÂm glad that it happened. It was a horrible experience. I was embarrassed and all that other good stuff but Â like I say, when people see my now theyÂre going to see Wow, he really pulled it together. I think sometimes we gotta fall or stumble in order to get to where weÂre really going in life.
FLEX: HOW HAS THAT MOTIVATED YOU FOR THE 2008 SEASON?
TF: ItÂs allowed me to focus on what I really needed to be focused on, which is quality. Me and Dennis Wolf are the really only big guys left that are really competitive. We both have similar structures to the shorter guys, so I feel we both have an advantage. ItÂs just a matter of nailing the conditioning. So thatÂs my goal, thatÂs what drives me now is nailing the conditioning. IÂll be competing in the 280s. IÂm already there already. So IÂm excited about my chances.
FLEX: DO YOU FEEL PEOPLE WROTE YOU OFF AFTER THE OLYMPIA, DESPITE TWO WINS AND A TOP THREE-FINISH AT THE ARNOLD TO START THE 2007 SEASON?
TF: This is one of those fickle type of sports and youÂre only as good as last show. I donÂt blame people for thinking whatever they think. People donÂt realize in 95 I was one of the top amateurs. I left the sport for five years, came back got my pro card climb my way back into the top seven in the world. So if you doubt me you probably just donÂt know what IÂm made of or what my capabilities are.
FLEX: WHAT ARE YOUR CAPABILITIES?
TF: When first came on they used to call me the swimmer. I tore my pec and they said heÂs washed up. Then I cam back and they said, HeÂs Too small to be a pro successfully. Shawn ray said I would never place in the top five in a show. And the next show I got fifth place and the next show I won. So all those people who d oubt I donÂt really worry about them because they donÂt really know. ThereÂs tons of pros out there but thereÂs only a few top guys. And the reason is work ethic, genetics and drive. The people who wrote me off, thatÂs good just have Âem bet against me. IÂll take all the bets. Whatever they want to do.
FLEX: LETÂS BREAK DOWN SOME OF YOUR FELLOW COMPETITORS WHOM YOU WILL BE FACING IN EITHER THE IRONMAN AND/OR THE ARNOLD CLASSIC.
FIRST OFF, WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THE COMMENTS GUSTAVO BADELL MADE IN HIS FLEXONLINE INTERVIEW?
See the Gustavo Badell interview here
TF: GustavoÂs a comedian to me. IÂll never forget, when I first saw Gustavo after he was getting 18th at the Olympia and then he got seven th place at the Arnold that year and I thought he should have got top six. So I kind of gave him a compliment and all that and then the next year he got 3rd at the OlympiaÂ IÂm not going to say that IÂm not still a fan, but IÂm a fan of the old Gustavo. New Gustavo is kind of like, kind of caught up in some fantasy world. I donÂt know, he must be looking in some of those circus mirrors or something. B ecause the comment he made about the back shot, where he said heÂs gonna make me look like a kid? ThereÂs no one in the world 5-9 thatÂs gonna make somebody 6-2 look like a kid. ThatÂs not gonna happen. Physics just wonÂt allow it. IÂm wider than him, my waist is smaller than him, I have way more detail than him so, I just kind of laughed at that and I just c ant wait to get up there. HeÂs gonna see whatÂs up, for sure. HeÂs like the last person IÂm worried about, for sure. He better worry about Kai Green and Melvin Anthony, he donÂt even need to bring me up at all.
FLEX: OK. HOW ABOUT PHIL HEATH?
TF: When Phil first came into this sport I took a liking to him because heÂs a young cat, he remind me of myself when I was his age, heÂs got a good head on his shoulders. IÂm a huge fan I tell him that every time I see him. ItÂs just going to be a matter of who nails it. If we both nail it, I think I have more mature muscle. Last year nobody gave me a chance, everybody picked him but itÂs not up to the fans, itÂs up to the judges and it all depends what you bring to the stage in that moment. those 15 30 minutes youÂre up on that stage is all that matters. It doesnÂt matter what you look like in the room before or after. I look forward to competing against Phi, I know he made a lot of improvements. I just know about muscle, how it is. HeÂs young, he put on a lot of new muscle and weÂll see how much of it actually makes it to the stage.
FLEX: JOHNNIE JACKSON.
TF: IÂm a huge fan of JohnnieÂs. If Johnnie nails it like he did in Atlantic City heÂs gonna be in the mix. No knocks on anything on his physique. HeÂs got a more powerful upper body than lower body, so if he was able to bring his legs up a little more, his calves and all that, then heÂs gonna be right in the mix.
FLEX: KAI GREENE.
TF: Another person IÂm a huge fan of. I watched him through his amateur years and early in his pro career. He came up last year. I used to see Kai Greene with that cooler all the time. When I saw him in 07 I was like, Wow! I got to get me one of them coolers! ItÂs all about the food, he learned the power of food. He already had a incredible physique, so he learned how to eat and the rest is history. Kai is one person out of probably all of them that I will be more concerned with than most people because I just respect what heÂs done. I know heÂs driven and know he got that taste of success. I heard he got up to 300 pounds in the offseason, so like I said letÂs see how much of that he brings to the stage.
FLEX: DEXTER JACKSON.
TF: I think I was real close to Dexter last year at the Arnold. IÂm just dying for another shot. I kind of wish Victor was there a little bit. People told me I was really close especially when we first walked out there but I kind of faded and they kind of gained ground. IÂm a tall guy and I have to eat all day. Those guys can fill up and stay full for the whole weekend. So I think if Dexter nails it and I nail it itÂs just going to be like a bigger version of himself. So weÂll see what the judges say. Dexter is one of my favorite bodybuilders of all time. We came through the ranks together. HeÂs one of the most consistent people in the sport, comes in shape every time and I admire that and I have to learn from that. Now that VictorÂs not in it he is the man to beat - no matter what they say about Phil - and IÂm very aware of that.
FLEX: MELVIN ANTHONY.
TF:One of my favorite bodybuilders, we always kick it when we see each other. If Melvin nails it heÂs going to be at the top. I feel the top five [at the Arnold Classic] is going to be Dexter, Melvin, Phil myself and Kai Greene. IÂm not trying to leave anybody out but IÂm just going by Â those are the guys that have everything, no oneÂs missing anything so itÂs just a matter of who nails it. If all five of us nail it wow, thatÂs going to be crazy. ThatÂs really what I always hope for. What you really want is for everyone to be on so you can assess yourself accordingly.
FLEX: ALRIGHT. GIVE ME A PREDICTION ON WHERE YOUÂRE GOING TO FINISH AT THESE FIRST FEW SHOWS.
TF: IÂm doing all four of the first spring shows. Everybody says this, but this is best IÂve ever been. Ever. I donÂt want to put any pictures out, I donÂt want to jinx myself. But ever since the Olympia IÂve been working on this. People are really going to be shocked. My bodyfat, my waist are all where it usually is by show time and I still have a little less than three weeks to go before [the Ironman]. IÂve grown up a lot. A lot of people didnÂt experience what I did. I experienced victory and defeat. Most people have one or the other. I got the taste of sweetness and I got the taste of bitterness, so I think I have a edge over most people. I know what it feels like to have it and lose it, and I donÂt want it to happen again so IÂm pulling out all the stops and itÂs going to be something to see.