by Christian Duque
As we predicted right here at Iron Magazine, Andrew Jacked took a decisive win this past weekend at the Texas Pro edging out one of the most impressive packages ever brought by Hunter Labrada. Carlos Thomas Jr. took an impressive third and fans all around the world were left wanting more.
This contest was a world class production. It had a terrific stage, with fantastic lighting, and drew out some really great talent. Although some had hoped for a similar type lineup in Tampa, Texas was sure to deliver. And who could forget Tampa, where Labrada cleaned house? And in so doing snagged an Olympia qualification for the big dance to be held this November in sunny and beautiful Orlando, FL.
Some thought – like yours truly – that he should hunker down and focus on the O as opposed to sneaking in for another contest just a week later. That said, Hunter was already committed to this contest, and it would have been unprofessional of him to drop out just because he already had a qual. I totally understand that sentiment even though it’s been lost on countless physique-based athletes who only think about themselves. Hunter is old school because as a prodigy he understands what it means to sign an athlete contract and live up to it. Perhaps it didn’t make the most strategic sense to do Texas, but if he committed way back when, there was no way he was bailing.
What I love about the contest is that the Top 2 were stacked. Andrew Jacked is a guy who many believed should have won the 2023 Arnold Classic. He’s a guy that brings tremendous size with razor-sharp condition. This Top 6 Olympian has been terrorizing the pro circuit for the last year or so and is considered a top contender for the 2023 Mr. Olympia.
Texas was always the show he planned on doing after Columbus and it drew the attention of guys like Labrada and Thomas. The reality of the matter is that while Tampa is one of the most hardcore bodybuilding scenes in the country, Texas has become a bigger contest in terms of bragging rights. Texas is the home of Ronnie Coleman, Branch Warren, and a scene that’s been going strong thanks in large part to the leadership of super promoters like Ed and Betty Pariso. The fact is that the state has generated considerable buzz in bodybuilding and this past contest shows us just how deep lineups in the Lonestar State are. I mean this contest buried other shows like Tampa and Chicago. The fans couldn’t have been happier with what they got to see. And the champ showed the world how it’s done. He spent considerable time revving up his engine and creating huge buzz throughout all the socials. People knew this was Jacked’s show to lose and the conversations on the various Facebook groups and message boards said it all.
It’s very noteworthy anytime you have an athlete who really shares everything on social media. We saw this with Hunter going into Tampa and we saw this with Andrew going into Texas. It’s a culture clash with the old ways. If you take a look back at the Dorian Yates approach, you’ll find a guy who hunkered down in an underground gym for most of the year. He was a guy who trained in oversized sweats, kind of like how Dexter trained in the 2000’s. These guys were always covered up and opted to work on the build-up as opposed to the flashy ways of showing off their physiques. Bob Paris was very much like this as well. To them the idea of being overly-eager to show off gains and progress was seen as being too showy.
They believed that the only people who decided contests were that panel of judges who called out the poses. Being the fan favorite was nice and all, but they weren’t about to tip off the competition just to be the most talked about bodybuilder for the weeks and days leading up to the contest. It’s also not something that was required of them by their sponsors. Remember that these were the magazine days and companies made their money in a whole different way than they do today. And even by contemporary standards there’s still competitors that choose to take it old school.
The modern top tier bodybuilder has to be out in front, they have to keep their audiences growing and engaged, and the magic tried and true way to do this is to be as transparent as possible. This oftentimes means showing it all – the highs and the lows. The more raw a competitor can be, the bigger their following will become. If an athlete struggles with their macros or has a week where the caloric intake is too little to get the grueling workouts and hours upon hours of posing practice done, muscle enthusiasts respect that champion all the more. That’s how you build credibility. That’s not something you can buy or trade. You either have it or you don’t. The idea that a prep is delightful from beginning to end is both unrealistic and utter bullshit.
Andrew Jacked brought one of the most conditioned packages of his career and the fans knew well before the contest who the winner was going to be. What was very interesting, however, is just how good Hunter Labrada came. He was way more polished and impressive than even his win in Tampa. That win gave him his ticket to the Olympia, but he was saving the best for Texas.
That’s because he has a running rivalry with Jacked that’s both positive and cutting-edge. We’ll discuss it in a future article here at Iron Magazine, but even bringing his best, Jacked was too much for him. The same can be said for the package brought by Carlos Thomas Jr.. Pretty much everyone who threw their hat in the ring was up against a guy so poised to win that they simply couldn’t withstand that level of size, symmetry, and heart. The champ posed hard from the moment the prejudging got started, his routine was stellar, and the finals posedown cemented his position as the top dog. While Labrada’s win in Tampa made the headlines, Jacked’s win in Texas made him a top name going into the 2023 Mr. Olympia.
As I said earlier, a lot of people thought the 2023 Arnold Classic was a battle to the wire between Andrew Jacked and Samson Dauda. Now in Texas, everyone saw the whole contest as boiling down between Andrew and Hunter. That’s two major showdowns in 2023 alone where if you were to poll the fans, you’d see the 2023 Texas Pro champ come out looking like a guy who a great many people feel embodies all that’s great about bodybuilding. A guy with that much clout and who can back it up with placings is extremely dangerous. He’s the kind of athlete everyone should keep an eye on. Especially as the biggest show in physique-based sports quickly approaches!!
Where do you think Andrew will place at the 2023 Mr. Olympia?