Bodybuilding bids farewell to one of its most iconic musclemen

By Shawn Perine

March 30, 2009


It’s with sadness that we report the passing of Irvin Koszewski at the age of 84. “Zabo,” as he was known to the bodybuilding community, was one of the last remaining members of a vanishing fraternity of iconic musclemen who helped turn the old Muscle Beach of Santa Monica into the epicenter of the health and fitness movement.

Born August 24, 1924 in Collingswood, N.J., Zabo was a student athlete who lettered in numerous sports when he found himself inspired by a photo of Eugen Sandow – considered by many to be the first “true” bodybuilder – and decided to develop his own physique. In addition to building a body that would win him titles like Mr. New Jersey and Mr. California, he would develop the most renowned set of abdominals in the history of bodybuilding, often grabbing “Best Abs” trophies during his 20+ year competitive career.

Throughout the 50s and 60s, Zabo was the epitome of California Cool, never seen without a pair of Ray-Bans, slicked back hair and a knowing grin. From the day Joe Gold broke ground on the original Gold’s Gym until the closing of the flagship World Gym in Marina del Rey (Calif.) two years ago, Zabo was Joe’s trusty second in command, providing his buddy with business support, friendship and a steady stream of witty quips.

Zabo was inducted into the Joe Weider Hall of Fame in May of 2007 and honored at last year’s Independence Day show at Muscle Beach in Venice, California and as recently as last month he could be seen hitting the weights at Gold’s Venice, moving a little slower than in his halcyon days, but putting in full workouts nonetheless.

Plans for a memorial service are in the works. We will keep Flex Online readers posted when those plans are firmed up.

The entire Weider/AMI family would like to express its deepest condolences to the Koszewski family and to Zabo’s extended family of thousands of bodybuilders who were educated, entertained and inspired by him.


1947 AAU Mr. New Jersey 4th
1948 AAU Mr. New Jersey 1st
1950 AAU Jr. Mr. Middle Atlantic 1st
  AAU Mr. Middle Atlantic 1st
  AAU Mr. America 13th
  IFBB Mr. Eastern America 3rd
1951 AAU Mr. Strength & Health 2nd
  AAU Jr. Mr. America 4th
  AAU Mr. Eastern America 3rd
1952 AAU Mr. Superman 4th
  AAU Mr. Southern California 3rd (tie)
  AAU Mr. California 4th
  AAU Jr. Mr. America 3rd
  AAU Mr. America 4th
1953 AAU Mr. Southern California 2nd
  AAU Mr. Los Angeles 1st
  AAU Mr. California 2nd
  AAU Mr. Pacific Coast 1st
  AAU Mr. America 3rd
1954 AAU Mr. California 1st
  AAU Jr. Mr. America 2nd
  AAU Mr. America 3rd
1956 Pro Mr. USA 3rd
1957 Mr. USA 5th (tie)
1965 IFBB Mr. America 3rd (medium)
1967 Mr. International 1st (medium, 2nd overall)
  Pro Mr. California 2nd
  IFBB Jr. Mr. America 3rd
  Mr. International 1st (medium, 2nd overall)
  IFBB Mr. America 2nd (medium)
1970 IFBB Pro Mr. World 4th (short)