Gaspari vs. Labrada

The epic battle to determine who was the 2nd best bodybuilder of the Haney era.




STRENGTHS: Conditioning, leg and back thickness

WEAKNESSES: Back width, arms

BEST POSE: Abs and thigh

WORST POSE: Rear lat spread



STRENGTHS: Pleasing aesthetics, shoulders

WEAKNESSES: Quad size, hamstrings

BEST POSE: Front lat spread

WORST POSE: Most muscular


In the ’80s, when Lee Haney reigned supreme, two shorter champs battled to be No. 2. The younger Gaspari made it to the IFBB Pro League one year before Labrada, but both traveled the same path, winning their classes at the NPC Nationals and IFBB World Championships in back-to-back years. In 1987, Gaspari, the son of an Italian immigrant, bested Cuban refugee Labrada three times (twice by one place). This set up their legendary shootouts throughout Europe the next autumn—duels that pitted the freakishly dense and defined Gaspari against the perfectly proportioned Labrada. In those seven 1988 shows, they finished one-two in six and one-three in the other. Gaspari won four, Labrada three.

After Gaspari occupied the coveted space from 1986–88, Labrada succeeded his greatest rival as Mr O runner-up in 1989–90. They faced off for the 14th and final time at the 1991 Mr. O, when Gaspari was fading. Looking back, Gaspari had one more Olympia second and two more pro wins than his adversary, but he also competed more and struggled his final four years. Consistently excellent, Labrada never missed a posedown. The head-tohead scoreboard favors Gaspari. But did he have a better career? And who had the superior physique? More than twenty years after they last clashed, the debate continues.

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