Sports such as boxing and Olympic weightlifting, where body weight is a significant factor, are generally contested in weight classes. Bodybuilding also uses multiple weight classes at the amateur level. By 1980, IFBB professional competitions had two weight classes: over and under 200 pounds. Frank Zane and Franco Columbu won Mr. Olympia titles because they were in a different weight class than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In the 1980s there were no weight classes, so there were several wonderful professional bodybuilders who were handicapped by their smaller stature and lower body weight. But they were so amazing that if there had been a 212lb class I'm convinced they would have been able to win it.
After all, Rich Gaspari, Lee Labrada and Shawn Ray managed to take second place at the Olympia and competed against other bodybuilders of all sizes. If someone can come second to the greatest bodybuilders, in this case mostly Lee Haney, it's safe to assume they would have won in a 212-pound class provided they could have qualified for that category.
Rich Gaspari placed second in the 1986, 1987, and 1988 Mr. Olympia contests. Richie was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2011 he received the Muscle Beach Hall of Fame Award. Gasparis's only "weakness," he admitted, was that his shoulders seemed a little too narrow for his stature. Realizing this, he made tremendous efforts over several years to develop his deltoids and shoulder structure, and his competitive success shows his achievements in that effort.
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Lee Labrada is a professional bodybuilder, published author and CEO of Labrada Nutrition. He won the Mr. Universe title in 1985 and placed in the top 4 in the Mr. Olympia for seven consecutive years. He twice finished second at the Olympia. Labrada is known for steadily improving over the years and was at his best the year he retired. Lee was considerably shorter than many of his challengers, but he was so developed aesthetically and in such great shape that he still often emerged victorious.
Bill DobbinsBill DobbinsBill Dobbins
In over 30 major bodybuilding competitions, Ray failed to make the top five just once. Shawn finished second at the 1994 Olympia. Aside from his incredible work ethic when it comes to training and nutrition, Shawn was also known for having one of the most aesthetically pleasing physiques around. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, professional bodybuilders continued to grow taller, increasingly penalizing those with small structures.
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THE SOLUTION OF GREATNESS
As bodybuilders of the '80s got bigger over time, many were motivated to bulk up and pack too much size for their frames. There were some of the original light heavyweight contenders who finished pro careers weighing nearly 230 pounds. When you're dealing with heavily muscled individuals like this, being too heavy doesn't make them look "fat" - just too fat, blocky, and lacking in muscularity and definition.
There are several examples of this, but one of the most notable is Bob Paris. In 2006, Flex Magazine ranked Bob Paris as the most aesthetically pleasing athlete in bodybuilding history. Bob managed to finish third in five pro shows but had no wins despite his incredible physique. He consistently attempted to gain size in the 1990s to keep up with the 'big boys', which detracted from his wonderful aesthetic balance. But if there had been a 212-pound class, Bob and others might have been motivated to bend rather than straighten and likely have had much greater success in a 212-pound class.