SHADOW BOXING

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“Ah, come on, Flex, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I don’t know, Kris, I’m feeling small. Have you told Dorian that I’ve been taking a break?”

“Dorian doesn’t give a s—t about how you look. Do you know how many bodybuilders would like to be in your shoes, mate? And don’t forget me. We have to help each other out. Our careers could take parallel paths -- I could be the next Peter McGough and you the next Dorian.”

This was just part of the 45-minute phone conversation I had with two-time EFBB Britain junior division winner James “Flex” Lewis. It was a verbal tug of war that represented my mad -- and ultimately successful -- attempt to schedule a workout for him with Dorian Yates at Temple Gym in Birmingham, England.

While the lad’s back would be bent to the breaking point, I’d be snapping photos fast and furiously to document all the action.

Into the Dungeon | I met with the unshaven 21-year-old in Wales on January 5, and we began our two-hour journey along the windy icy roads to Birmingham. During this time, Flex said he didn’t want to show any skin for the camera because he was in offseason shape. As he said this to me, I couldn’t help but repeatedly glance at the veins snaking around his thick forearms, resembling the map we were using to guide us to our destination.

Upon arrival, the clocks read 12 noon and the thermometers minus one degree Celsius -- downright balmy for the region this time of year. The man known as the Shadow wasn’t expected to arrive until 2 pm. Flex asked to stop at Starbucks for a shot of liquid energy to warm him up and get the caffeine hit needed to charge his batteries for the battle that was about to take place. I could sense he was nervous.

As he hung back in the warm confines of the coffee shop, I continued on, walking up Temple Street to peruse the scene of the iron asylum. Going down the steps into the basement establishment, I entered. No sign of Dorian yet.

The lock on the restroom door was substituted with a bucket to keep it closed. The dumbbells ranged up to a mind-numbing 250 pounds and I couldn’t find one straight Olympic bar, as all seemed to be horrifically bent. Nothing was farther from the world I had grown used to, Gold’s Gym in sun-soaked Venice, California.

With a promptness rare among pro bodybuilders, Dorian walked in right at 2 pm, his 245-pound lean frame draped in layers of clothing. I have met many great physique athletes over the years, but on every occasion I see Dorian, I feel I am in the company of royalty. Maybe it’s because there is a certain element of the unknown and unpredictability that surrounds him; maybe it’s just the fact that in bodybuilding circles, he is royalty. Six Sandows do a lot for your aura . . .

To find out the details of the Dorian/Lewis workout, catch the whole story in the June issue of FLEX magazine, available on newsstands now.

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