Bodybuilding veteran Lee Labrada has given his thoughts on the upcoming 2023 Arnold Classic, scheduled for March 2-5, in Columbus, Ohio. In a recent The Menace podcast, Labrada broke down the competition and named Samson Dauda and Shaun Clarida as favorites heading into the show.
During the 1970s and 80s, Labrada made a name for himself in the IFBB Pro League with exceptional posing routines, conditioning, and balanced proportions. While he never won an Olympia title, he placed in the top four at the contest for seven consecutive years. Labrada stepped away from competing back in the 90s but still keeps up with the sport today.
Last year, the 2022 Mr. Olympia contest ended with Hadi Choopan claiming his first Sandow trophy. There were a number of surprises at the event, including former 212 Olympia Derek Lunsford’s Men’s Open transformation and Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay finishing fifth place. Meanwhile, Shaun Clarida took home his second 212 Olympia title in dominant fashion.
Weeks after the event ended, competitors’ focus shifted to the nearing 2023 Arnold Classic. The prize money suddenly increased to $300,000 for the Open class winner, which got the attention of Nick Walker, Andrew Jacked, Patrick Moore, and Elssbiay. With the sport’s second-most coveted title on the line, Labrada took part in his latest interview to assess the competition.
Lee Labrada Discusses 2023 Arnold Classic, Believes Judges Are Shifting to Favor Conditioning Over Size
Labrada said the 2023 Arnold Classic lineup started off sparse because it was so close to the Olympia contest last December.
“It may have started too late. I think what happened was, the proximity of the Olympia in December to March, really doesn’t allow for a full down cycle before the guys start getting back into contest mode. I think a lot of them were faced with either staying the course in terms of their pre-contest prep and trying to hold that peak for another three months. I think it was just tough. I think that a lot of them felt that they physically couldn’t do it, you know,” said Lee Labrada.
“I honestly think, I don’t think it has anything to do with anything going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about. I think it really has a lot to do with that the top athletes just couldn’t turn around and cycle back up for that show, that quick.”
Labrada Says Shaun Clarida Winning 2023 AC Would Be ‘Signal’ That Size Is ‘No Longer King’
According to Labrada, should Clarida pull off the victory, it will send a clear message to competitors that conditioning is valued more than size on stage.
“Isn’t Shaun Clarida entering this show. I’ll tell you what, I’m really interested to see how that goes. Because, you know, you know like I do, this guy is as hard as granite but he’s one of the smaller guys. Will they go that route. Will they vote for him or will a bigger less conditioned guy win, you know,’ wonders Labrada.
“It’s going to turn really interesting. It seems like they are really awarding the conditioning a lot more,” added Labrada. “I wouldn’t be shocked [if Clarida won] because he’s a great bodybuilder, I would be shocked because it sends a very strong signal to the rest of the bodybuilding community that very possibly, size is no longer king. You have got to have that conditioning otherwise we’re not even going to look at you.”
Before discussing a potential top five for the show, Labrada opened up on Ramy’s chances heading into Ohio this weekend.
“I don’t think that Big Ramy’s condition at the last Olympia was up to his usual standard. I think when this guy is in his best condition, he is very dangerous,” Labrada said. “Oh, I thought he’d win going into the last one. I was surprised to see him drop down to fifth for sure.”
Initially, Labrada was hesitant to offer predictions, but later stated a shredded Samson Dauda would win the show.
“If I’m being perfectly honest, I only know a handful of the guys going in, the ones we talked about. I honestly haven’t been keeping up looking at their photos and I don’t know what kind of condition they are in,” said Labrada.”
“Well, I’ll tell you what, I think if Samson comes in shredded, he’s winning. Put him in first, I don’t know who else is going to be second and third. I’m going to piss off all those guys because they’re all my friends. The top five in no particular order, based on those guys, I would say in no particular order, Samson, Shaun Clarida, Nick Walker, Ramy, and Andrew Jacked.”
Lee Labrada Shares Top 5 for 2023 Arnold Classic (in no particular order)
- Samson Dauda
- Shaun Clarida
- Nick Walker
- Big Ramy
- Andrew Jacked
Another bodybuilding veteran breaking down the action is Milos Sarcev, who appeared on The Truth podcast with Hany Rambod. While discussing Samson Dauda’s favorable chances, Rambod warned Sarcev that Nick Walker’s ‘freaky’ muscularity makes him a unique threat at this event.
Clarida has also looked ahead at a possible battle against Dauda this weekend. He credited Samson’s size as a legitimate hurdle but mentioned that he’ll out-pose him on stage if he has to. Given Clarida’s success at the 2021 Legion Sports Fest Pro, fans would love to see him compared with mass monsters once again.
Time will tell which competitor comes out on top. Labrada believes if Shaun Clarida wins, the victory would affect how judges view conditioning and mass on stage.