THE FINAL CALLOUTS
The final two callouts of the prejudging and the night show were arguably the most exciting and perplexing. First up: Jon Delarosa and Lionel Beyeke. This one made sense. Delarosa has improved vastly since turning pro at the NPC USA in 2011. He’s packed enough muscle on his 5'6" frame to qualify for brick shithouse status, all the while maintaining his small, tight waist and natural shape. Beyeke was off— and arguably we’ve only seen him on in Brazil three weeks before at the Arnold Classic—but the French citizen, who hails from Cameroon, has enough genetic gifts in the size, shape, and round-muscle-bellies departments to warrant a top position. Delarosa and Beyeke were battling it out for third and fourth place. It was that close.Advertisement
But then there was Juan Morel posing down next to Mamdouh Elssbiay. This one left many in the audience scratching their heads. Wasn’t Big Ramy—even a Ramy at what his coach Dennis James called 85%—the clear winner, destined to defend the title he captured last year? Sure, Morel looked great, and his condition was better than Elssbiay’s. But, like last year, there was just so much of Big Ramy on the Tribeca stage. Were the judges playing up the drama and giving the audience their money’s worth? Or was there an upset in the making?
To begin to answer these questions, one has to go back to March, when upper respiratory issues landed Elssbiay in a Kuwaiti hospital. He looked like he was in shape guest-posing two weeks out at the Pittsburgh Pro, but, in all honesty, not contest shape. Rumors of the “would he/wouldn’t he compete in New York” variety began to swirl in cyberspace. When I texted Dennis James to ask when they would be getting into the city, the Menace texted back that they wouldn’t arrive until the Thursday night before the contest weekend. Finally, on the Wednesday three days before the contest, Dennis announced that Ramy was indeed coming back to defend his title and would be onstage. So apparently Ramy was in; but how would he look?
No one else was resting on his laurels. Steve Kuclo, originally slated to compete in New York, won the Arnold Classic in Brazil, attempted to save a woman who died of cardiac arrest on the flight back to the States, and skipped the Big Apple shindig. If Beyeke, somehow delegated to a controversial fourth in Brazil, came into the New York Pro in shape, he would have a chance to redeem himself with the New York fans, who are never shy about letting the judges know how they feel about a competitor’s placing. A conditioned, grainy Branch Warren won his sixth pro contest in Dallas a week before and therefore skipped the NY Pro, a show he won seven years ago. Fouad Abiad, second in Dallas, dropped out of the NY Pro the week of the contest due to gallstones, and last year’s sixth-place finisher, Anthoneil Champagnie, had dropped out weeks earlier after a biceps injury.
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