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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.
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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Like the city it’s held in, this year’s New York Pro had a truly international flair. From South Africa to Kuwait, from France to Hungary, of the top 10 competitors, seven had to hop international flights to compete. The other three are originally immigrants or children of recently arrived immigrants.
The 43-year-old Muscovite has seen better days on this stage (ninth in 2009). Shelestov’s thighs seemed to be down in size this year.
Although nowhere near as massive as some of the other men, this AustralIan Former farm boy has a very pleasing physique reminiscent of Pavol Jablonicky’s. He’s got the overall look a lot of guys who get into weight training want to emulate. He’s good enough to match his placing here from last year, but if Demetriou wishes to fare better against this caliber of competitor, he will need to accrue more overall size, with special attention to leg mass and thigh sweep.
Many felt he should have been compared to the top five here and in Brazil (where he was sixth). The South African has a crisp look to his physique, with a dramatic differential between his wide shoulders, tight waist, and quads that fare dramatically at mid-thigh. Each muscle group was clearly and cleanly delineated. Dohne looked amazing for a man who announced his retirement from professional bodybuilding in 2012 following purported health issues.
This 44-year-old, who holds dual Greek and Australian citizenship, is known for his conditioning, yet today he just didn’t have it. When he’s off, what Kefalianos lacks in natural shape and structure becomes apparent and he is relegated to the middle of the pack. This is a man who works hard—a taxi driver in Australia, he carries his food in the cab—so expect him to redeem himself in the near future.
The Hungarian who earned his pro card at the 2011 Arnold Classic Amateur was massive and conditioned from head to toe. However, his blocky frame—including a thick waist—held him back from placing any higher. After finishing 13th here last year, this contest marked a real improvement for the 31-year-old.
In many ways the biggest and most pleasant surprise of the night, Charles availed himself well at his pro debut. The Haitian New Yorker’s upper body size and grainy conditioning carried him into the top 5, with some remarking he could have placed as high as third. Arms, delts, shredded pectorals, and overall shape are his strengths. To do better here and elsewhere, Max will need to carry more muscle mass in his lower body.
Many felt Beyeke got the shaft in Brazil, that he should have placed higher and possibly even won. This was his chance to represent and show us all his capability. Unfortunately, he didn’t. From the front Lionel looked great and held his own or even beat guys who placed above him. But his watery rear, which washed out the back detail we all know he has, proved his biggest demerit here. Four points separated him from third place.
Only five years ago, Delarosa was competing as an amateur on this stage alongside his father (the senior Delarosa in the Masters class). For the past three years, the son has been edging up a notch in the NY Pro: 5th in 2012, 4th in 2013, 3rd this year. It’s easy to look at the top five on the Tribeca stage and think Jon is the one who’s come closest to maxing out his potential; after all, how much more muscle can he add? How can his condition get any better? A very capable bodybuilder who shows up in shape the day of the contest, Delarosa will only be beat if he’s “on” by bodybuilders who are equally on with better genetics. And, as Beyeke proves, if those potentially better guys aren’t near 100%, they’re not going to beat the Dominican Delarosa.
Like his fellow New Yorker and friend Delarosa, every year Morel has been improving at this contest: fourth in 2012, third in 2013, second this year. A week after placing runner-up in New York, this 2011 North American Champion won his second pro contest in Toronto. On the Tribeca stage, Morel (like everyone else) was just overpowered size-wise by the Ramy juggernaut. This was especially true in the side poses, where no one can handle Ramy’s front-to-back density.
One of the taller competitors onstage, Juan continues to grow into his frame, yet it is a frame that can carry even more muscle. And more muscle, especially in his lower body, is what he’ll need to hang against Elssbiay and the top tier in future contests. That said, Morel’s structure, conditioning, and size hint at a future Olympia top-six placing if he continues to improve.
A true beast in the muscle-mass department, thick and dense, Ramy emerged as the second two-time NY Pro champion (Kai Greene is the other), and the first to do it in successive years (Elssbiay qualified for the 2014 Mr. Olympia). Bear in mind, this was only Ramy’s third pro contest in his fourth year of training. He was close to looking as good as he did last year but slightly lacked the wow factor he brought to the stage a year earlier: He’s now the Ramy we know and expect. There’s just so much of him that he’s overwhelming and won with straight firsts on the scorecards. So, yeah, it was puzzling that the judges called him and Morel out for the final comparisons at the prejudging and the evening show, but the fans got to enjoy the drama. Ramy looked happy onstage, smiling like a big kid overjoyed at being there.
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On the scorecards it wasn’t close, but from the audience’s perspective it seemed like they were fighting tooth and nail. Coming of his first pro victory at the Dallas Europa, Guy Cisternino brought his size and hard-as-nails conditioning up against Arnold Classic 212 third-placer Aaron Clark. Both men were in great condition: shredded, hard, and grainy. The judges went with Clark, placing Cisternino second. The thickest, most-muscled man on the 212-stage, Iran’s Baito Abbaspour used his massive quads to carry him into third. Marco Rivera clenched his jaw and gritted it out as abdominal cramps visibly wracked his physique in the prejudging and was glad he did: He slipped past an impressive Curtis Bryant to take fourth.
1. Yeshaira Robles*
5. Lacey DeLuca
* Qualified for 2014 Bikini Olympia
1. Jason Poston*
* Qualified for the 2014 Olympia Men’s Physique Showdown
Juliana Malacarne now has three New Pro championships under her belt, as she successfully defended her title.
1. Juliana Malacarne*
* Qualified for the 2014 Olympia Women’s Physique Showdown
Camala Rodriguez won the Fitness class at the NY Pro back in 2011. Winning the Figure division this year, she chalked up her sixth win as an IFBB pro.
1. Camala Rodriguez*
3. Laurie Green
* Qualified for the 2014 Figure Olympia FLEX