by Christian Duque
Let me start this article with a couple of three things. If you are a fan of soprano you will understand; If not, you will ask, “What did he just say?” Anyway, when we talk about bodybuilding and living legends, we are talking about a very small club, especially when it comes to active competitors. People like Brandon Curry, Big Ramy, and Shawn Rhoden come to mind. You can definitely add Mr. Olympia Phil Heath 7 times to this category and you shouldn’t forget the Arnold Classic Champion William “The Conqueror” Bonac.
Unfortunately, after the Olympics last year, I was able to see where many of you did not classify Bonac in this category. He certainly brought an incredible build, taller and more muscular, but he was all but ignored in the pre-Olympics promotions. This wasn’t because of William’s actions or the quality of his body, but rather the fact that the event was based on the idea of four Mr. Olympia champions all fighting on one stage. Bonac just didn’t fit the narrative.
In previous years he was always considered a threat, in 2019 he almost won the Olympics. If you looked at the competition records by yourself, no one would get close to him. You have people like Sergio, Justin Rodriguez and Ian Valliere who have all won major titles. Then there are guys like Akim Williams, who hit the top 6 at Mr. O last year (just 1 place behind William) and then there’s a former Arnold champion in Cedric McMillan. Will Akim be as strong in Columbus as he was in Orlando? Will Cedric in 2021 be nearly as hot as the Cedric who won the title in 2017? Then of course there are real workers like Maxx Charles. While we’ve seen stronger lineups this will be a very competitive lineup and I think Bonac should win and here’s why.
Hype means nothing. Bonac has always been under the radar so it doesn’t matter whether RXMuscle, MD or Youtuber show him love or not. Speaking of YouTube, who can forget the disrespect Bonac endured by Luimarco. Back then, this troll was the biggest guy in the video sharing app. Today most of them have long since forgotten his name. Bonac, meanwhile, remains at the forefront of the sport. It doesn’t matter whether it’s trendy or not. He was also able to leave his longtime superstar trainer and continue to assert himself among the elite of the elite. While the experts may disagree, I believe Bonac can beat anyone. He can beat Brandon (almost 2019), he can beat Ramy, and he can beat Phil. The only flaw he has isn’t really a flaw. He’s short, but since when has bodybuilding been a sport for tall men? It’s smaller too, as it was a former 212 competitor. Nonetheless, as of 2020, he has proven that he can also play the size game by achieving a top 5 placement and an Olympic qualification in 2020. So wait, if he’s already qualified for the big dance, why is he doing the Arnold?
Well, the Arnold 2021 won’t qualify you for the 2021 Olympics, but even if Bonac does, Bonac doesn’t need him. I think his decision to compete will have more to do with personal pride than anything else. Although the prize money is huge, even though the event doesn’t have an expo, The Conqueror has to assert itself as the top guy. In my eyes he always will be, but I think part of him wants to recapture his title and put that victory on the faces of any speaker who may have outgrown him.
Look, Big Ramy is the champion and everyone should be watching him. Brandon was the 2020 Mr. O and he deserves a lot of attention too. In addition, no other guy should dwarf Bonac – even though they are. You have people who only won $ 10k shows and / or who have big IG accounts that get more press than an Olympic runner-up and Arnold champion. When is that ok? It really isn’t, but the fitness industry press doesn’t typically report athletes based on body quality, competition records, or chance of winning. They are more interested in hits than anything else. The reality is that a major Columbus win this September may be just what the doctor ordered. Depending on how Bonac comes about and how crucial the win is, I could see many outlets getting on the bandwagon and pushing The Conqueror hard for the Olympics.
The bigger question for me is if William would even contest the Olympics after a big win in Columbus? I’ve always said that bodybuilding is a sport for thinking people. Maybe a different kind of story would be a great strategy. So we know that Arnold 2021 is scheduled for September and we know that Arnold 2022 is scheduled for the normal time in early March 2022. Can you imagine the kind of hype Bonac would create if he won in September, skipped The O and then won again in March?!?! Imagine walking into the 2022 Mr. Olympia with two Arnold titles in your name. Not only would he have a shipload of cash, but who in their right mind would overlook him? Also, by NOT doing the O, he would get so much attention that anyone who won it would be automatically compared to him on the various message boards. And yes, I would be careless if I didn’t bring that up too !!
Message boards lagged a bit, but they’re back. MDs have a new protocol to weed out spammers, IronMag forums have never missed a beat and Facebook groups are increasingly turning into mini-boards with their room functions. Other threads, like the one at GetBig, have never skipped a beat and even the somewhat abandoned boards at RxMuscle are coming to life again. What are most of the people discussing on these platforms? They talk about women, equipment and virtual comparisons. If Bonac wins two Arnolds back to back, everyone will be talking about him. Even if a top guy doesn’t need buzz and buzz doesn’t mean anything on the scorecards, it’s still something that is desirable.
What do you think? Will Bonac win it all? Will Columbus be a preview of Orlando? Could we see William win twice and skip the O?