This coming Saturday, September 15, at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Flex Lewis will appear for the last time as a 212 competitor. If he’s victorious – and he’s determined to be just that – he will leave with his seventh 212 title, and henceforth compete in the open class. But why would he leave a division that he has been invincible in since 2012 and decide to mix it with the big boys in the open class?
The seed I’m sure can be found in a statement he made when I first met him back in 2005. He was 21 and we were walking along the boardwalk in Venice, California. Although a winner of a slew of junior titles back in Europe he was virtually unknown in the States.
In his Welsh brogue he told me: “I love bodybuilding and when it comes time to stop competing – which is a long way off, I hope — I do not want to come to the end of the road and be left with the thought, ‘Did I really give it my best shot? Could I have been better?’ I couldn’t live with that. Titles are not my priority, my long-term goal is to develop the best physique possible given my potential.”
Taking that statement on board it’s been clear for at least a couple of years that the 34 year old has maxed out in development in the 212-pound class. He has come in lean, hard and proportioned right on the weight limit, meaning that further muscle size improvements are not viable because the scales would disqualify him from the class he has dominated. And so to deliver on that 2005 projection of wanting to “Develop the best physique possible” the only road to fulfilling his true potential is to move up to the open class. Lewis remaining in the 212 class would be like asking Usain Bolt not to try to run any faster and be content with his current times.
AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE?
The alarmists have warned that won’t he still be too much of a lightweight among the heavy brigade? Against that viewpoint I would cite, William Bonac, Shawn Ray and Dexter Jackson.
William Bonac made his pro début as an open competitor in 2011 and then in 2102 competed in the 212 class, before returning to the open in 2013. Stacking around 230 pounds on his frame he has since racked up seven pro wins garnished by third spot at the 2017 Olympia followed by victory at this year’s Arnold Classic. In the process he has beaten giants like Roelly Winklaar, Cedric McMillan, Nathan DeAsha and a host of other so called mass monsters. Add to his resume that he has finished ahead of ageless Dexter Jackson on the last three occasions they have met. Incidentally Bonac’s coach is Neil Hill, who has guided Flex throughout his career,
Shawn Ray gained 12 successive top five Olympia placings (1990- 2001) and was twice runner-up (1994 and 1996). During that remarkable run the Shawnster’s bodyweight was usually around the 210 pound mark. At that bodyweight he regularly beat 260 pound plus juggernauts like Nasser El Sonbaty, Paul Dillett and Kevin Levrone, and twice ran a close Sandow race with Dorian Yates. He achieved all this because of his balance and super condition. It is this humble scribe’s premise that the same credentials would apply to Flex Lewis.
And don’t forget that the aforementioned Jackson won the 2008 Mr. Olympia contest hovering around 230 pounds.
To make the necessary gains it looks likely that the Welsh Dragon will step out of competition in 2019 and re-appear in the Open class in 2020. Given his warrior spirit it’s not too fanciful to speculate that by 2020 he could come in at around 225 pounds ripped. Those gains could be in the form of widening and thickening his upper body, without disturbing his waistline. But his ace card is the condition that he – and the rest of his 212 cohorts – excel at. In fact he and his 212 band of brothers have traditionally outdone their open counterparts in that department. Having known this fine young man for 13 years I am sure he has all the attributes to continue his dream and so carve out the best physique he can. How high that will take him will be intriguing to witness.
That is all in the future, for now we should celebrate his 212 finale on Saturday and hail Flex Lewis as not just a great champion but as a great person who is just about the most popular pro around. Furthermore he should be recognized as the force that established and defined the 212 division. Whatever happens on Saturday Flex, thanks for the 212 memories and we look forward to many more in the open division.