Lewis believes that Lunsford is on his way to history.
Derek Lunsford could be the next heir to true bodybuilding greatness. Already a former champion of 212 Olympia (2021), Lunsford shone in his debut in the men’s Open at Olympia 2022, finishing as runner-up to the titanic Hadi Choopan. With more experience under his belt, some members of the bodybuilding community believe that he is on the verge of a truly unique achievement.
On July 17, 2023, James “Flex” Lewis posted a video on his YouTube channel where he had a conversation with Lunsford about his current place in bodybuilding. Now that Lunsford is a full-time member of the men’s open class, Lewis backed his peers’ chances to become the first bodybuilder to win in two separate Olympia divisions (212, Men’s Open).
A seven-time 212 Olympia champion (2012-2018), Lewis enjoyed a friendly rivalry with Lunsford towards the end of his reign, most notably besting the young runner-up during the 2018 edition of the contest. That might make Lewis more equipped than most to understand what Lunsford is capable of at the highest levels of bodybuilding.
Lewis maintained that he had followed Lunsford closely since his lone 212 title in 2021 and that he certainly sees him as the athlete to beat in November in Orlando, FL.
“Going into this year’s (2023) Olympia, I said to a lot of people, ‘Derek Lunsford is the one,’” Lewis explained. “That (2023) Pittsburgh Pro, that blew my mind and everyone else. I thought to myself, ‘Thank God that guy isn’t in the 212 (division) anymore.’ I also said to myself, ‘Thank God I’m not competing in the open class against this guy.’ I also said, ‘whoever is standing next to that guy will have a handful.’
Beyond talking about Lunsford’s physique, Lewis almost described him as the inevitable first “champion-champion”: the first bodybuilder in history who could win a title in two major Olympia divisions.
With a win at the 2023 Olympia, Lunsford could very well live up to this billing.
“What you have done since 212 is honestly very inspiring,” Lewis told Lunsford. “You say that you were never able to dethrone me, but you know what I can say about you, is that I could have beaten you in the 212 class, but now you are going to be, in my eyes, the first champion-champion.”
Lewis expressed that one of the goals of his competitive career was to win a two-division Olympia title. The icon has never competed in a division outside of 212 in the marquee bodybuilding contests. Now that those days are behind him, he will live vicariously through Lunsford’s exploits.
“It was my motivation to be the first two-division champion,” Lewis said. “Whether you thought about it or not, I was wasting away… I can never achieve that now that I’m retired. I want to see you go to the moon and back.”
Lewis is not the first bodybuilding legend to put his faith in Lunsford at the 2023 Olympia. Eight-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman (1998-2005) and veteran trainer Miloš Šarčev have previously expressed confidence in the young superstar’s chances for historic success.
Now Lunsford will just have to live up to the hype.
Featured Image: @dereklunsford_ on Instagram