A First Class Gentleman with a Classical Physique.
15 Apr 2007
One of the neat things about publishing Natural Champion magazine is the opportunity to make new friends and to renew old friendships and acquaintances. Back in the early 1980s I was on the judging panel for the Louisiana Grand Prix professional bodybuilding contest. Some of the top names in all of bodybuilding were on stage, including two future Mr. Olympias (Chris Dickerson and Samir Bannout), and several others who came close – Tom Platz, the man with the best legs in the history of the sport, Casey Viator, the youngest man to ever win the Mr. America contest (at age 19), Robby Robinson, the fantastically developed Black Prince, and Boyer Coe, holder of the Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Universe titles and owner of some of the best arms in the game – plus the legendary Ed Corney, Mr. Intensity-or-Insanity Steve Michalik, and Tony Emmott from ‘across the pond’.
But even in such a gathering of muscular might, one man stood out for his symmetrical, nearly perfectly proportioned physique – Anibal Lopez. Anibal didn’t win the title that evening, but he gave the audience a glimpse of a physique that in the opinion of many most closely resembled the classic Greek ideal.
I didn’t get the chance to really meet Anibal Lopez personally that evening, but as luck would have it our paths crossed again via the pages of Natural Champion magazine. We exchanged emails and phone calls and formed a long-distance friendship and when I told Anibal we’d like to feature him on the cover of Natural Champion he agreed…and so this month we are pleased and honored to feature a true “Blast From The Past” – the man with the classical physique, Anibal Lopez.
Anibal Lopez was born August 24, 1942 in Puerto Rico to Francisco and Francisca Lopez. The Lopez family – Anibal has two brothers, Angelo and Robert, and two sisters, Rachel and Lucy - relocated to Bronx, New York in 1954 where Anibal attended Columbus High School.
Anibal relates that things were not easy in those days. His family was very poor and at times just obtaining the basics of food and shelter was difficult, though they did the best with what they had. Anibal’s mother was a devout Christian and he says that her strong faith saw them through some tough times.
As a boy, Anibal was concerned with what he considered to be his small size and took up boxing to improve his power and ability to defend himself. He also took up gymnastics, but when he first saw Mr. America and Mr. Universe Steve Reeves as Hercules on the silver screen he says he was ‘bitten by the bodybuilding bug’. He began to train at home with a barbell and dumbell set – equipment he bought himself with money he earned working after school at a grocery store - and a homemade wooden bench.
Interestingly enough, decades later Steve Reeves would tell Anibal Lopez that he considered him to be one of his favorite bodybuilders…something a young Anibal could not have dreamed of.
Anibal says that another early motivation occurred when his cousins, Raul Pacheco and Ray Jiminez, both bodybuilders, took him to see a contest in which Leroy Colbert, the man with the gigantic arms, put on a posing exhibition. Sometime later Anibal and Leroy met and formed an enduring friendship.
While living in the Throgsneck Projects in the Bronx, Anibal started training at the sports center in the projects and his progress accelerated. He gained size and strength and won his first trophy, this one in powerlifting.
Anibal then entered his first novice bodybuilding contest, the “Mr. Wagner”, held at the Wagner Youth Center in Manhattan. Much to his surprise, he won first place.
After that, his goal was to win the Mr. New York City title, which he subsequently did and embarked on a long and successful career in the sport and art of bodybuilding. His titles include Pro Mr. America and Pro Mr. World.
But as successful as Anibal Lopez has been in the world of bodybuilding, his life extended far beyond the gym and the contest stage. He traveled extensively throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, and Spain giving seminars and exhibitions in summer camps, churches, prisons and schools. He also served in the U.S. Armed Forces as a member of the elite 101st Airborne Division. He discovered the he loved the challenge of jumping out of (a perfectly good) aircraft in flight. He later served with the 19th Special Forces Group in the reserve and made over 100 jumps, including 10 night jumps all from different aircraft.
Though retired from competitive bodybuilding, he continues to train and stay in shape. As he puts it, “for me, bodybuilding has never simply been a sport, it has always been a way of life, one that I will continue as long as I am physically able.”
Today Anibal lives in Florida, where he works in ‘semi-retirement’ with one of his sons, Danny, in a wrought iron business and also designs and builds exercise equipment. He speaks with pride and love of his children, Annette, Debbie, Danny, and Alex - who is on a tour of duty with the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq - and his grandchildren, Kaela, Bella and Xavier Anibal.
Anibal relates that for a time he fell away from the teachings of his mother, but in 1994 he devoted his life to Christ and is now a devout Christian who shares his testimony on his website and in his daily life dealing with others.
We at Natural Champion are proud to have been able to present Anibal Lopez - a bodybuilding legend with a classical physique, a man who served his country with pride, honor and distiction, a man who is a loving son, father and grandfather, a man of faith and spirituality. And I, personally, am pleased and honored to have made a new and valued friend.
To learn more about Anibal Lopez, to read his testimony, see more photos, and find out how you can be personally trained via the internet by this Iron Game Legend, visit his website at www.aniballopez.com. Anibal is also a distributor for Naturally Juic’d and other Natural Champion products and you can order direct from him at his website.
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