The Arnold Classic is taking over. From its genesis in 1989 – the year it hosted but two divisions: the men’s and women’s bodybuilding – to its current form – a monolithic mega-event hosting multiple sports and many physique categories – the Arnold Sports Festival, held annually in March in Columbus Ohio, has become the biggest fitness extravaganza and multi-sport event on the planet.
With 18,000 athletes contesting 50 different sports in front of a vocal fan base of over 175,000 people, the Arnold is a yearly highlight for both performer and spectator alike. And much like its pioneering founder and namesake, it is ever-expanding in multiple positive directions.
For a quarter of a century the best athletes from all parts of the world have descended on Columbus to test their skills against their elite sporting brethren.
Now, with the Arnold Classic Europe in Spain (launched in 2011), Arnold Classic Brazil (established in 2013), and the Arnold Classic Australia, to be hosted for the first time in 2015 (from March 13-15),
greater scope for more athletes to further flesh out their sporting resumes courtesy of the biggest stage in sports has been created.
Though many sports are featured, the Arnold still is famous for bringing muscle and stunning shape to the stage. From the open men’s bodybuilding class (the Arnold Classic division), which remains the star attraction, to the 212lb bodybuilding category, men’s and women’s physique divisions, and fitness, figure and bikini competitors, the Arnold is known for showcasing the human form in all its aesthetic and muscular glory.
In many ways continuing as it began,
the Arnold still features the world’s best IFBB pro men’s bodybuilders going bicep to bicep in a true test of bodybuilding superiority.
With a first place prize of $130,000 at stake at this year’s event, along with the usual bragging rights and prestige such as honor affords, the 2015 field will be more competitive than ever. With an esteemed mix of wily veterans, future champions, and promising contenders,
the 2015 Arnold Classic lineup is, as is always the case, stacked.
Who will make the coveted top six come March 7? Who will push the contenders hard? Here are my top ten predictions.
10th place: Michael Kefalianos
Since finishing 11th at his pro debut, the New York Pro in 2009, the compact and ultra-shredded Kefalianos has competed 32 times, racking up many top six placements but just falling short of legitimate top-tier inclusion. Having packed more mass on his already formidable physique the man of Greek and Australian dual citizenship promises to threaten the top ten amongst stiff competition at this year’s Arnold.
9th place: Lionel Beyeke
One athlete looking to make a statement at this year’s Arnold is the man with the unlimited potential, Lionel Beyeke. With all the attributes needed to challenge for the top placements in every contest he enters, conditioning problems (the physique, not the hair, as his dome is now clean shaven) and a relative lack of experience on bodybuilding’s biggest stages have prevented him from making the leap from prospect to contender to champion. He has the size and the shape. Can Beyeke bring the shredded mass to do some serious damage?
8th place: Brandon Curry
The excellently proportioned Brandon Curry is another competitor with as yet unfulfilled contest winning potential – his magnificent physique is often covered with a thin film of definition-obscuring fluid. Bringing his best look yet to last year’s Arnold, and scoring 8th place for his efforts, Curry has shown that he can dial it in under pressure. With a few more refinements and a little more detail he could conceivably break the top six in March.
7th place: Roelly Winklaar
For my money the most physically impressive bodybuilder competing in today’s pro ranks, Roelly Winklaar has a cartoonish quality to his physique that leads him the three dimensional size and shape that has men like Phil Health swimming in Olympia Sandows. Bulging from head to toe in quality muscle, Winklaar is not lacking for crisp conditioning, as his career-best 7th place finish at the 2013 Olympia so ably demonstrated. At this year’s Arnold he should, at the very least, take 7th.
6th place: Toney Freeman
A true pro bodybuilding veteran, the X-Man Toney Freeman has been competing since 2003, the year in which he placed 11th at his pro debut, the now-defunct Night of Champions. Despite the occasional misstep along the way, the graceful poser with the much sought after combination of tiny waist, formidable shoulder width and massive flaring quads (hence the X-man moniker) has won six pro titles and challenged heartily for many others. Uncharacteristically lacking his usual shredded conditioning, Freeman placed 9th at last year’s Arnold. Should he bring it together this time around he should duly climb three places to sneak into the top six.
5th place: Branch Warren
Competing for almost as long as Freeman is another of the IFBB’s notable legends, Branch Warren, a perennial contender with two Arnold titles and multiple top six placements (including second at the 2009 Olympia and a host of big wins) comprising his impressive pro credentials. No longer just a set of massive wheels with roadmap vascularity, Warren is a more complete bodybuilder these days. His career has had its missteps. Just when many had counted him out, in light of his multiple injuries and the general wear and tear of a lengthy pro career, Branch bounded back in 2014 with an excellent sixth place Olympia finish. This stellar showing proved that with Branch Warren, one thing is for certain: you cannot deny his tremendous work ethic and ability to rise to the occasion when it counts.
4th place: Cedric McMillan
With a physique so good that only time is needed for him to secure both Arnold and Olympia gold, Cedric McMillan must know that patience will be his most important quality as he steadily rises through the ranks. Winner of three pro events and 3rd place finisher at the 2014 Arnold, McMillan has finally found the perfect combination of size and conditioning needed to unsettle the IFBB’s major players. With flawless symmetry and muscular proportion for a man of his 6’ 1” frame, McMillan, should he bring his all time best, could easily switch places with any of the athletes included in this preview’s top three.
3rd place: Evan Centopani
Recently published photos show the massive Evan Centopani looking bigger and better than ever and if they are any indication of the size and conditioning he will bring to Columbus the man referred to as ‘the Ox’ should have no trouble cracking the top six. On balance, Centopani’s pro career has been an impressive one. In challenging the best only 11 times he has secured three pro wins and 3rd and 5th place finishes at the 2012 and 2014 Arnold Classic events. Due to his freaky size, solid proportionality and razor sharp muscularity he is high on anyone’s list for top three inclusion at most pro events.
2nd place: Ben Pakulski
In claiming a career-best 2nd place finish at the 2013 Arnold Classic, Ben Pakulski defied those critics who considered him to be disproportionally impressive from the waist down. Showing excellent balance between upper and lower body and displaying some of the best muscularity in the IFBB courtesy of his killer conditioning, Pakulski is a legitimate contender for the Arnold title. If he can put it all together, as he did in 2013, there should be no stopping him from making the top three, or even stealing the show.
Winner: Dexter Jackson
As experienced as they come in today’s pro game, Dexter Jackson is known for being consistently consistent in his conditioning and attention to detail when dialing in his phenomenal physique. The most successful pro builder to contest this year’s Arnold, the 45-year-old Jackson – who has competed as a pro since 1999, over which period he has claimed multiple victories, including four Arnold Classic titles (2005-06, 2008, 2013) and the Olympia once (in 2008) – has proven he can win big shows.
With a top-to-toe balanced and aesthetic look that resonates with fans as much as it does with judges and with enough size to ensure he is never truly outmuscled,
The Blade will not fail to impress come March 7.
Should he claim another Arnold title, he will make history as the only man to have ever won this prestigious event five times.