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The Item: Career Updates, Legends Update, Andrew Oye's IFBB Pro Athletes Roundup

The Scoop: Legendary for his classically proportioned physique, IFBB Pro Francis Benfatto is pondering his path back to the competitive bodybuilding stage. I recently conducted an in-depth interview with Benfatto for MUSCLE INK Magazine. In the feature article "IFBB Pro Francis Benfatto: The Master of Mass With Class," the ageless, 52-year-old physique icon shared thoughts on his career history, his A.R.T System of training, and overall bodybuilding philosophies.

The "So What?": Born in Casablanca, Morocco, with French roots, Francis Benfatto was scouted by Joe Weider back in the '80s. "Mr. Joe Weider approached me and offered me this unique opportunity to become a pro bodybuilder," Benfatto recounts. "Becoming a pro was my dream, and the cherry on the cake was that this special offer came from no one than Joe himself who was the icon of bodybuilding. Back then, I only knew Joe as the man who popularized bodybuilding with his team of champions through his publications. I also knew Joe as the creator of the Olympia, the most prestigious pro competition."

The man they call "The Sphinx" went on to carve out a place for himself as one of the sport's best physiques and posers. After his buzzed-about comeback at the 2006 Australian Grand Prix, I interviewed Benfatto for "The Art of War," my series on Physique Performance Art and Presentation in Competitive Bodybuilding, putting him in a class with other "classic" greats like IFBB Pro Lee Labrada and 3-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Frank Zane.

As reported in "Andrew Oye's Pro-Muscle Report," the 5'6", 190-pound, Cape Town, South Africa, resident has been warming up for his return to the contest stage by performing exhibitions at various sports, bodybuilding, physique and fitness events like the FIBO POWER, while promoting his company Benfatto Nutrition. "I sincerely believe that I have done the best ever comeback in bodybuilding after 14 years of retirement from competition," Benfatto states, as he contemplates his next move in his comeback story. "I'm highly motivated, but I haven't decided yet which competitions I will enter in 2011 to qualify for the Olympia 202 Showdown. I would like to reach a level of development and conditioning that will let me tackle the best Olympia 202 contenders."

Andrew Oye's Verdict: Early in his career, Benfatto took the stage against heavyweights at the 1988 IFBB Night of Champions (previously won by IFBB Pro Robby Robinson, IFBB Pro Albert Beckles and IFBB Pro Gary Strydom, who would go on to become champion of WWE CEO Vince McMahon's WBF World Bodybuilding Federation, for which IFBB Pro Tom Platz directed Talent Development). Benfatto's classic physique netted him Olympia Qualifications to compete against more massive athletes at the 1989-1991 IFBB Mr. Olympia contests (won by 8-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Lee Haney) and the 1992 Olympia (won by 6-time Mr. Olympia IFBB Pro Dorian Yates). Benfatto was also a contender at the Arnold Sports Festival's 1991 IFBB Pro Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic Bodybuilding Championships (won by IFBB Pro Shawn Ray), the 1992 Arnold Classic (won by 5-time Masters Olympia Champion IFBB Pro Vince Taylor) and 1993 Arnold Classic (won by 4-time Arnold Classic Champion IFBB Pro Flex Wheeler).

I have little doubt that if the International Federation of Bodybuilding & Fitness had instituted the 202 Division (which made its debut at the 2008 Joe Weider's Olympia Weekend) in Francis Benfatto's heyday, he would already have several Olympia trophies on his mantel. While the new weight division separates him from the hugeness of competitors like IFBB Pro Jay Cutler, IFBB Pro Phil Heath and IFBB Pro Branch Warren, will current judging standards reward the veteran's classic form against the contemporary builds of IFBB Pro League athletes like IFBB Pro David Henry, IFBB Pro Kevin English, IFBB Pro Jose Raymond, IFBB Pro Eduardo Correa and IFBB Pro Flex Lewis? We'll see.

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