The Maximus Pro Invitational held on March 29, 2003 at the Fiera Di Roma in Rome, Italy was more than just a professional bodybuilding show. With a well-attended expo, comprised of both American and Italian fitness and supplement companies, hourly seminars conducted by many of the competitors and former IFBB pros and an enthralling bodybuilding competition to top off the night, it was truly a fitness experience.
For the Italians, who compromised the majority of the attendees, (given the location of the event) the event was truly a unique opportunity to connect with and speak to their favorite professional bodybuilders, to say the least they were enthralled. From the expo's opening, to the final presentation of the winner's trophy (which by the way was a bust of David) at the conclusion of the night show, it was nothing but excitement. During the seminars, the pros were open, friendly and eager to answer the multitude of questions hailing from the audience. During the night show, the constant ovations of the crowd seemed to invigorate the posing performances of each of the professionals.
To designate a definitive highlight of the evening show would be extremely difficult because there were most definitely two. The first of which was Darrem Charles' posing routine. IT WAS AMAZING. His popin' and lockin,' moonwalking and choreographed movements defined the imaginative description of adjectives. His posing truly takes bodybuilding to a higher level, and justifies the self-proclaimed title of 'sport.' I had heard he was the best poser in the IFBB and his routine proved that tenfold. No one in the crowd had seen anything like it and many stood in ovation (myself included) at the conclusion of his posing.
The second highlight of the evening was the posedown, only moments after the top five had come on stage they were off, not back into the dressing room, but into the crowd. Walking up and down the isles, fans were rushing to the bodybuilders (especially Markus Ruhl) as they waded through the crowd and flexed impromptu poses. It was a once in a lifetime experience to get up close to the pros. I was fortunate enough so that when Dexter Jackson walked directly in front of me, my few words of encouragement were enough to motivate him to stop and begin to flex most musculars. The next thing I knew, I was standing on the ground, Dexter was standing in my seat and he and Claud Groloux are having their own mini pose down right in front of me. IT WAS INSANE!
The only disappointment of the show was Jay Cutler's failure to compete. I had gone to Rome fully expecting him to fulfill his own proclamation of being "Shredded in Rome, bro." However he was not. Jay did not compete and when he came out to guest pose he looked huge, but was hesitant to (though he eventually did) continue after his choreographed routine despite the crowds pleading and excitement. I would guess that Jay had not even had time to check into his hotel based on the fact he was wheeling his suitcase around the expo (unless it was filled with his daily food), however, he seemed to be overly unenthused to be in Rome. Reluctant to pose for pictures, and rather standoffish in his seminar, Cutler seemed more like "Grumpy" Jay than "Iron" Jay. I am sure that the other pros, and attendees such as Rich Gaspari and Tito Raymond, had encountered the similar travel woes, yet sensing the exuberance of the Italian fans, they did there best to comply with all requests and represent the best of bodybuilding. I have to say that Jay did not. On a positive not however, Jay Cutler's failure to compete in the evening show prevented the naming of the victor from being a foregone conclusion. This enabled a sense of exuberant suspense to permeate the evening show; one that remained until the largest trophy was awarded to Darrem Charles and one that may not have existed otherwise.
Here is a brief rundown of the top five competitors.
First Place: Darrem Charles.
Darrem was the first to walk onstage during prejudging and his presence instantly captivated the crowd. Competing at around the 230 pound mark, he looked like a graceful composition of striated mass. Though his victory was by no means a dominant one, he presented the best overall package while on stage. His peaked and full biceps enhanced all of his poses, as did his definitive V-taper- one which Markus Ruhl lacked. Though the competition of the top three was very close, I believe it was Darrem's slight size edge over Dexter Jackson and his exciting posing routine that propelled him to the top on this night.
Second Place: Markus Ruhl.
In his Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, Arnold claimed that he could rest a glass on the massive protrusion of his upper chest. Markus Ruhl looked as though he could rest a gallon water jug on his. He was absolutely enormous and had a definitive size advantage over all of the other competitors. He entire body looked as though he was stretching his skin to its limit. Markus was very cut and looked good, however when standing next to both Charles and Jackson in rear poses he hamstrings and glutes lacked some definition, as did his shoulders (somewhat of a mystery there). Though not the most aesthetically pleasing to look at, his mass could not be denied. Throughout the night the Italians were chanting 'bus' in heavily accented English whenever he was featured on stage. I would have had him in third.
Third Place: Dexter Jackson
The Blade was cut, very, very cut in fact. One could see the fibers of his quads vibrating underneath a thin sheath of skin when he hit side tricep poses. His physique looked nearly equivalent to Darrem's however his lack of calf development became somewhat obvious when standing next to the top two competitors, and his lats appeared to tie in to his torso at somewhat of a high point when viewed from the front. Nevertheless, he was hard, full and his abs and obliques were unmatched. His posing routine was fun and the crowd was in love with his inspiring definition, however I would assume that his lack of calf development and somewhat smaller stature served as justification for the judges to place him third. Personally, I thought that the aesthetic appeal of his physique should have merited him a second place finish.
Fourth Place: Claude Groloux.
Claude was dry to the bone. His muscles looked both full and cut and his calves were probably the best onstage. Claude was well balanced and looked excellent however his waist, though by no means large was not as small as either Charles' or Jackson's and there was no way that he could outmuscle Ruhl. He matched up best and was called out with Troy Alves, however his size advantage over the latter earned him a justified fourth place. Claude looked great, his back was wide and detailed as were his other parts, however he could not match to the aesthetic refinement of either Charles or Jackson and so his placing was appropriate.
Fifth Place: Troy Alves
I would say that at his current weight (around 220 pound) Troy possesses somewhat of a throwback physique. He was not the largest not the hardest of the top five competitors but extremely well balanced. All of his parts were well defined and his symmetry was excellent. His arms, back, legs, shoulders all matched but it appeared as though he could stand to add a little more mass to his chest and his body as a whole if he desires to escalate within the professional ranks. Troy was in excellent shape but not as cut as Charles, Jackson or Groloux, however his placing was appropriate and his symmetrical balance lifted him over the competitors who placed behind him.
Overall the experience of the Maximus Pro Show was an excellent one. Up until the awarding of places there was really no clear cut favorite in the evening show, which sincerely enhanced the suspense of final decisions. The seminars, expo and the excitement of the final posedown in which the pros strutted their way through a frenzied crown enabled each fan to connect on a personal level with the bodybuilders. Additionally, the fitness expositions by Timea Majorova and others in addition to the exciting guest posing of Tito Raymond and Jay Cutler served to further solidify the success of the weekend. Though somewhat disappointing, Jay's failure to compete did not detract from the weekend and I truly believe that the attendees of the expo were happy just to see and talk to the man who many proclaim to be the future Mr. Olympia.
In conclusion, I believe that Darrem Charles' victory was excellent one for bodybuilding as a whole. First, it proved the significance of the posing round. Darrem's clear cut superiority in that field eliminated some of the subjective criteria that often cloud the outcome of professional contests. Second, and finally, in a sport where the greatest title is 'Mr. Olympia,' a reference to Mount Olympus and the stature of the Greek Gods who inhabited it, it is refreshing to see a contest winner who looks as though he could stand with grace at the top of that mountain, not one whose mass would crush it.