This is not some ‘shooting from the hip’ bold prediction, but rather one that we have given a lot of thought and can point to some particulars that line up to make it very plausible – James “Flex” Lewis will win the 2020 Mr. Olympia.
The seven-time 212 champion received a special invite from IFBB Pro League president Jim Manion and will not have to qualify by winning a show or amassing enough points to take the stage at The Orleans Arena. So that most likely means that The Welsh Dragon will wait until September to make his return following a two-year layoff.
This has been his plan all along and Lewis announced after taking home the winner’s check in the 212 at the 2018 Olympia that he was going to take the 2019 season off to put on some quality size and then come back to try his hand in the open division. Now that he doesn’t have to compete before the Olympia, it gives him unexpected additional time to hone his physique.
Even though Lewis is a great bodybuilder, it does seem a little odd that we are handing him the Sandow seven-plus months out, right? Follow along…
HE HAS PAID HIS DUES
This is not the first time that Lewis has wanted to make the switch from the 212 to the open. Back in 2014, he publicly announced that he intended on doing so, but decided against it a short time later. Sources who requested to remain anonymous informed us that the IFBB hierarchy told Lewis to stay put in the 212 and put off the idea of moving up – for a period of time, at least.
At the time, the 212 was still a fairly new division on the Olympia Weekend schedule and held on the expo stage during the daytime. Eventually, the pose down and awards were done at The Orleans in the evening, but it was nowhere near the spectacle that it has become; the 212 is anticipated by the die-hard fans as much as the open and, in some cases, has even had better storylines as far as rivalries go and deeper line-ups, as well.
So Lewis played the good soldier and stayed put in the 212 and ran off four more wins – earning each and every one of them, by the way. He was the best bodybuilder on stage and one can easily make the argument that Lewis could have defeated Heath in 2017 and/or 2018 if given the opportunity.
Will he be rewarded for putting the 212 on the map? Perhaps, but in this next section, we’re going to show that he may not even need any preferential treatment.
OLYMPIA AT A CROSSROADS
Three different winners in the last three years proves one thing – this next one is anybody’s show. Brandon Curry is coming in as the defending champion but he is far from a dominating bodybuilder. Yes, he swept both the Arnold Classic (USA) and Olympia in 2019, but being part of the Camel Crew will take its toll on him and his health. He obviously hit his career peak and it remains to be seen if he can extend that. He will be a factor, of course.
The bigger question marks are with Shawn Rhoden and Phil Heath. The former is still dealing with legal issues and was deemed ineligible by the owners/promoters of the Olympia and also has not renewed his IFBB Pro Card; one can read into that as to why. But even if the 2018 winner puts these off-the-stage issues behind him, he will turn 46 in April and even if he is vindicated in the sexual allegations, will he be given the title again, even if he is the best man on stage?
Now 40, Heath also has some other concerns besides trying to be top bodybuilder vying for another Sandow. “The Gift” made some negative statements about the judges after losing to Rhoden and was that is something that may come back to haunt him if he decides to come back after a year off.
So there’s a possibility that this year’s Olympia line-up will be similar to the last one. Curry’s runner-up was William Bonac, who will be competing at the Arnold Classic next month. In third place was Hadi Choopan, who had competed in both the 212 and open categories. Many people felt that Choopan – a late entrant due to the travel ban on his home country Iran – should have won. So it is not a stretch to see a 212-turned-open competitor be right there in the mix.
Lewis has the best physique of all of the 2019 competitors and he may be even more impressive if he does what he has said his intentions are – to compete between 220 and 230 pounds. He has what it takes to be a champion and is a fan favorite, as well. The Olympia has traditionally been a show where a particular competitor dominates for a period of time and that is sandwiched with a few ‘one-and-done’ years. And at 36, Lewis has a few good years left and can become the new ‘face of the franchise,’ if you will, and is a great person to market the contest with front and center.
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