It has been viewed as merely a formality of sorts for Phil Heath to enter the history books in less than two weeks with what would be his eighth consecutive Mr. Olympia win. With that, he would make it a three-way tie between himself, Ronnie Coleman and Lee Haney. As a matter of fact, the man known as “The Gift”has eluded to possibly hanging up the posing trunks after winning 10 straight Sandows. Talk about putting the cart before the horse; Heath will have to contend with a deep line-up that includes a number of potential problems, one of them being a wily veteran who knows exactly what it takes to win the O and has not been mentioned much as threat – Dexter Jackson.
“The Blade”stood in the winner’s circle in 2008 at The Orleans Arena and has not slipped much – if at all – in the decade that has passed. The 48-year-old is always in top condition, aesthetic and proportioned properly.
While the pundits have been touting Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, William Bonac, Roelly Winklaar and Shawn Rhoden, Jackson has continued to prep and has the experience over everyone else in the sport. Sure, he is outsized by the majority of the top competitors, but he has all the intangibles over the rest. And, perhaps most important, is that Jackson rarely has any flaws, definitely not something that can be said about the line-up other than Heath.
So you may be asking yourself how can Jackson leapfrog three places from a year ago and knock off someone who is bigger and can go toe-to-toe with him in what are both of their strengths?
BELLE OF THE BALL NO MORE
What you see is not always what you get… in bodybuilding, that is. No runs, touchdowns, three-pointers or power play goals. Sure, there are the judges’ scorecards with a points system, but those numbers are not measured by anything other than someone’s opinion. And therein lies a theory, one that is a longshot but not out of the question.
Heath had been a FLEX-sponsored athlete since 2005 and the now-defunct (well, merged) bodybuilding publication had an exclusive contract with the top name in the sport; no one else could interview him but Weider/AMI. But that came to end earlier this year.
Much has changed in 13 years and Heath – although the top dog in the Iron Game – is a man without a country, to coin a phrase. He launched his own supplement company, Gifted Nutrition, only to leave it and go to Ultimate Nutrition for a ‘one-and-done.’ Now the only product he is hawking is his own apparel line, Gifted Athletics.
Since Heath is a free agent, media-wise, he was recently interviewed by Muscular Development’s Online Editor-in-Chief Ron Harris. This was something that was unthinkable even in the recent past and both parties waxed poetically how exclusive contracts by the various publications hurt the bodybuilding industry and fans, alike. (Something that we totally agree with and have stated on numerous occasions in the past.)
As if that wasn’t enough, Muscular Development has Heath on the cover of their current issue – on the store shelves just in time for the Olympia, no less.
But if you’re Weider/AMI and see all of this, it’s only human nature to feel as if Heath is biting the hand that fed him quite well for over a decade, dancing with the enemy, for all intents and purposes. And this ‘feud,’ if you will, goes all the way back to the mid-1980s.
SHOT ACROSS THE BOW
Here is the Cliff Notes version: Joe Weider was the kingpin of the bodybuilding world and that included publishing the two most popular titles in the industry, Muscle & Fitness and FLEX. But Weider also sold his own line of supplements and denied the request of running advertisements from Twin Lab… a company owned by the Blechman family. What happened pursuant to that was Twin Lab purchasing Muscular Development magazine from the Bob Hoffman estate and foiling a lawsuit against Weider, as well, for “restricting competition.”
By the time that the case was settled years later, Twin Lab was making even more money than when it was filed, thus the court finding in favor of the Weiders. And Steve Blechman, one of five sons of Twin Lab founders David and Jean, ended up ‘leaving’ Twin Lab to focus on running the magazine.
Although both Joe and Ben Weider have passed away and the company has been owned by American Media, Inc. for a number of years, that rivalry still exists and a perfect example is Muscular Development being denied press credentials from the 2017 Olympia.
SETTING THE TABLE
Heath winning yet another Sandow – even though it will be a record-tying accomplishment – will not be a game changer nor bring any excitement to the Iron Game. As it is, the industry has been pushing some other divisions such as classic physique (which, by the way, Heath mocked in a video a few months ago calling those competitors “weekend warriors”). So having a disliked champion whose cockiness – deserved or not – have even more to gloat about is not in the best interest of business. And make no mistake, that is the bottom line.
In this hypothetical situation, Jackson could win and announce his retirement, setting up a much-anticipated 2019 Olympia with Heath looking to become only the second IFBB pro to win back the title a year after losing it (Jay Cutler, 2009, over Jackson).
Then in 2020, the expected return of James “Flex” Lewis as a 230-pound open class bodybuilder will be a barn burner if Heath is the reigning champion.
Now, that’s a headline…