A common argument you’ll hear from many bodybuilding fans who’ve been following the sport long enough holds that few of today’s athletes could stand up against the best the sport had to offer in the 1990s. There were several bodybuilders, this line of thinking goes, who could have won the Mr. Olympia title—including Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray, and Kevin Levrone—but didn’t, all because of the dominance of multi–Olympia title winners Dorian Yates and Ronnie Coleman. To be fair, some would grant, we can imagine champs of today like Phil Heath, Kai Greene, and Shawn Rhoden going toe to toe with the best the ’90s could offer and availing themselves admirably.
But get past today’s Olympia top 3, this argument goes, and the level of talent leaves much to be desired. The current guys just don’t bring the consistent, freaky, grainy conditioning of yesteryear. People with this point of view seem to lose sight of the fact that there are now men out there on IFBB bodybuilding stages with the potential to redefine the sport. Men like Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay and Cedric McMillan, who, if they ever live up to their potential, or what is portended for them by fans and pundits, we can easily imagine flexing of against the best Yates, Coleman, and crew had to offer.
France’s Lionel Beyeke falls into this latter category. Now, there have been some good bodybuilders to come out of France in the past 25 years: Thierry Pastel, Mohammed Benaziza, and Francis Benfatto immediately come to mind. And while we’re on the topic of Francophonic muscle, let’s not forget the Black Panther, the incomparable Serge Nubret. But none of them, with the exception of Nubret, possessed the singular gifts that the Cameroon-born Beyeke stands to make good on.
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