Best of the IFBB North Americans

The NPC USA and Nationals have a long tradition of producing champion Pro bodybuilders, but many forget that the IFBB North American is also worthy of the same respect and prestige. One aspect of the event that distinguishes it from those other two Pro qualifiers is that it’s an international contest, open not only to US residents, but also athletes from Canada and Mexico. With the 2017 version coming up in just a few days, let’s take a brief look back at some of the very best who earned their Pro status at the IFBB North American Championships.
1992 Paul Dillett
I was there in 1991 when an obviously raw and unpolished behemoth from Canada named Paul Dillett made his first attempt at becoming a Pro. Much to his chagrin, he took second to the late Ray McNeil, and had to head back to Gold’s Venice for another full year of hard training and improving. Paul returned one year later to sweep the 1992 IFBB North Americans, and soon became one of the top Pro’s of the 90’s. Paul was one of the freakiest mass monsters of the decade, with coconut delts a mile wide, legitimate 23-inch arms, and some of the most outrageous vascularity ever seen. At 6-1 and 270 pounds with excellent shape and a small waist, it was only a relatively lagging back and amateur posing skills that kept Paul from ever winning one of the two big shows. Still, “Freakenstein” was a massive fan favorite, and is still revered as one of the most formidable competitors of what many consider the most competitive decade Pro bodybuilding ever witnessed.
1998 Dexter Jackson
What can you say about Dexter that hasn’t already been said? No man has won more Pro shows than Dexter at 28 total, and he also has a Mr. Olympia and five Arnold Classic titles. A quick calculation shows that Dexter won this contest and earned his Pro card almost 20 years ago, yet at nearly 48 years old is still at the top of his game, and routinely walloping men half his age. The Blade won the NA’s at 198 pounds, and eventually added close to 40 pounds of stage weight while keeping his lines and shape intact. Was he the greatest North American champ of all time? In my opinion, yes.
2009 Shawn Rhoden
Shawn Rhoden was an unlikely pick to win the 2009 North American. Though he had placed second as a light-heavyweight both there and at the Team Universe in 2001, his last appearance had been at the 2002 NPC Nationals, where he floundered in 14th place as a Heavy. Seven years away from the stage rarely translates into a major win, but Flexatron was the exception. It took him a couple seasons to find his bearings as a Pro, but then Rhoden soon rose to the pinnacle of the IFBB ranks. Since 2012, he’s been third, fourth, third twice in a row, and most recently, second place at the Mr. Olympia. With some of the most aesthetically pleasing shape ever seen along with dug-out muscle separations and striations, he’s one of just a handful of men touted as having a chance at defeating Phil Heath.
2011 Juan Morel
Juan Morel was just coming off a frustrating runner-up finish to Steve Kuclo at the USA when he decided to keep on grinding and hit the North Americans a few weeks later. The New Yorker’s persistence paid off, as he swept the show and graduated to the IFBB. Since then, ‘Diesel’ has three Pro wins and many other top-three finishes. Another huge man with nice lines and a small waist, he’s definitely one of today’s top stars.
2012 Dallas McCarver
When Dallas won the North American in 2012, he was a complete unknown who had only competed in two regional events the year before. But at just 21 years old, he became the youngest man to ever win an Overall at a Pro qualifier in the history of the NPC. He also took the longest break before making his Pro debut in the late spring of 2015, nearly three years. He won two Pro shows and placed top 8 in the Mr. Olympia contest all by 25 years old. Sadly, we will never know just how good he could have been, as he died tragically in August of 2017.

The Ladies of the North American
A very strong argument could be made that the IFBB North American Championships has produced far more successful female bodybuilders than male. While the contest has only produced one Mr. Olympia winner and one title, three of its female champions went on to win a collective 18 Ms. Olympia titles!
1982 Cory Everson
Though the North American wasn’t a Pro qualifier quite yet, I would be remiss if I failed to mention its 1982 women’s champ, Cory Everson. 1984 would begin her undisputed reign as the queen of women’s bodybuilding. Just weeks after earning Pro status at the NPC Nationals, Cory entered and won her first Ms. Olympia title. She would only compete 5 more times. All of those contests were the Ms. Olympia, and she won them all. That means her entire Pro record was made up of six consecutive Ms. Olympia wins – unheard of in either men’s or women’s bodybuilding before or since.
1989 Lenda Murray
Lenda won both the Junior Nationals and the North American in 1989, then returned to make her Pro debut with the 1990 Ms. Olympia, and won that on her first attempt just as Cory had before her. She would win it six times in a row before finally being stopped by Kim Chizevsy in both 1996 and 1997. Lenda retired after that, but made a successful comeback and won two more Olympia titles in 2002 and 2003, making a total of 8.
1992 Kim Chizevsky
Kim won the women’s North American title that same summer night in Redondo Beach, CA, as Paul Dillett. Though she had a strong Pro debut with a win at the 1993 Ms. International, it would take her four tries to nab the coveted Ms. Olympia title. But in doing so, she knocked the mighty Lenda Murray off her throne, a feat few would have thought possible. Kim displayed a new level of muscularity and condition, and it was enough to hold the Olympia crown for four years. Kim retired after her 1999 win, then reemerged in 2002 and 2003 briefly with two attempts as a Figure Pro