2010 IFBB ARNOLD CLASSIC PREVIEW

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Can '09 Olympia runner-up Branch Warren win the Arnold?

March 1, 2010

By Dave Lee

FLEXONLINE.COM

With the 2010 Arnold Classic a mere five days away, all conversation will be focused on the favorites heading into the season's first big show, names like Dexter Jackson, Phil Heath and Kai Greene. But there's one more name to add, a competitor that may very well top that list: Branch Warren.

Prior to September 26, Warren, while a threat to place well, has never been considered a favorite to win the big shows. That may have changed at the '09 Mr. Olympia. In perhaps the most stunning outcome of the night, Warren, with his power-packed physique, had stomped and fist-pumped his way to runner-up, behind winner Jay Cutler and ahead of Jackson, Greene and Heath. Warren was now the second-best bodybuilder in the world. Yet, in the post-Olympia aftermath, some questioned whether his new status as the sport's No. 2 man was more aberration than arrival to the big time. Then again, Warren has made a career out of being the underdog that far surpasses expectations.

In 1993, after winning the light-heavyweight and overall titles at the NPC Teen Nationals, eighteen-year old William "Branch" Warren was told he didn't have the goods to turn pro. Eleven years later, the Tyler, Texas native made it to the IFBB stage, placing eighth and fourth, respectively, at the '04 Night of Champions and GNC Show of Champions. By his sophomore year, he had two wins under his belt [Charlotte Pro, Europa Super Show], capped off by an eighth place finish at the Mr. Olympia.

In his Arnold debut in '06, Warren finished runner-up to Jackson but grabbed the coveted Most Muscular Trophy — the first time in the show's history that the honor went to the non-winner. A second place finish to Gustavo Badell a week later at the San Francisco Pro and fifth at the Grand Prix Australia closed out the first half of the season. Despite the auspicious start, Warren would end the year with a disappointing 12th at the Olympia and in '07, with the exception of his New York Pro win, continue his less-than-stellar string of placings, including seventh at the Arnold.

At the '08 Arnold, Warren fought his way back to fourth and another Most Muscular Trophy but a torn tendon in his left triceps sidelined him for the remainder of the season. No stranger to injury, [torn tendon in right biceps in 2000] Warren used the extended break to unveil a bigger, harder physique at the '09 Arnold, where he captured third place and his third Most Muscular Trophy, leading to his breakthrough Olympia performance and a return showdown with Jackson, Greene and Heath at this year's Arnold. While Warren may not have the genetic gifts of the three men who placed behind him last September, his blend of conditioning and thickness, particularly through his lower body (which is considered one of the best in the sport) and chest, coupled with improvements to his back and arms, makes a Warren win a possibility. His never-say-die attitude and warrior mentality in the gym will no doubt make him a fan favorite. On March 5, we'll see if he can turn his recent success into a victory at the 2010 Arnold Classic, in Columbus, Ohio and prove that he is indeed, for real.

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