Reg Park, Britain's Natural Legend (Part 2)

The Great Confrontation
By Lou Ravelle

Reprinted in NS with permission of Muscle Mob

In Part Two of this Reg Park Trilogy Lou takes us back to the Battle of the Giants- the very first NABBA Universe .. It was a contest which, for most fans, had only two runners-and they were both favourites, Reg Park and Steve Reeves.

1950 was the year of the first NABBA Mr Universe. The previous contest in 1948 had been organised by Health and Strength. It also became known in some circles as "The day they moved the goal posts."

Many of the same athletes who had participated in the 48 contest re-appeared in this second British Universe. However, a strange thing had happened and it seemed that there had been a reshuffling of parameters . Men who had, or would have, previously completed with the "biggies", six feet and over, were now suddenly found to be in class two, it seems that they weren't six feet tall after all. Or, could it have been the presence in Class 1 of that formidable combination of Steve Reeves and Reg Park,caused a sudden height loss in some cases. It was obvious that the real battle this year would be between these two giants.

In the event Class 1 was a little sparsely populated whereas class 2 seemed to have several well-known competitors who'd recently discovered that their height was just 5'11 3/4" . One look at the two favourites and who could blame them? It's interesting to note that the following year (1951) the goal posts were moved again and the big man's class was defined as 5'9" and over.

In any case the presence of the two front runners in Class I meant that that was where the race would be decided.

The judging was a long and meticulous process and was carried out in daylight in the glass-roofed ballroom of London's Royal Hotel. This "Pre-Judging" was not open to the general public and was done during the morning and afternoon of Saturday June 24th.The show itself was held at the Scala Theatre the same evening.

NABBA, the London based National Amateur Bodybuilding Association, was newly formed and the organisers were determined to make their first big show a memorable one � they succeeded. Truly, it was to be A night to remember.

On stage that night fans were treated to an unforgettable experience. Though there were some fifty men competing for the supreme title everyone in the audience knew that forty-eight of them were really just there for the ride and that the decision would go to one or other of just two men.

A magnificent and better than ever Reg Park, undoubtedly the best physique ever produced in Europe, battled it out with a Steve Reeves who was at the peak of his flawless form. Earlier in the day the judges had found it very difficult to separate the two. Each, in his own way seemed perfect. Reeves, bigger and more muscular than previously, still retained that flowing grace of line and movement for which he was renowned. Reg too was bigger and better than ever and for sheer rugged muscularity he was ahead of the American.

By this time each of the two men had a vast following world-wide and of course, as Reg was on his home ground, the greater part of the audience were rooting for him.

How did the two men compare? That is indeed a very difficult question, as the judges on that day well knew. Any physique contest is all about what the judges are really seeking. One judge may be more impressed by muscular bulk than by razor sharp definition, another may favour grace and line. Faced with these two competitors they had their hands full.

As for sheer masculine beauty the Reeves physique has never been equalled. But if the judges were looking for rugged,dense and yet balanced muscularity, Reg would be hard to beat. The two men were painstakingly scrutinised and compared on that day and they have been discussed and compared by fans the world over ever since.

Looking at the actual body parts, Park had the much deeper chest of the two with thick pectoral development. Reeves did not seem to have the rib- cage depth of his rival but his pectoral shape and definition were quite unique. The famous Reeves, almost straight, pectoral line, makes a photograph of him instantly recognisable even if you cut off the head.

Both men were renowned for their great shoulder-width. But Park had the edge when it came to actual deltoid development. The sheer size of these muscles was awesome, as were the striations that adorned them.

Both men had breathtaking back development, Reeves having tremendous taper. Reg, while still presenting a great V-shape, had a thickness of lats, trapezius and spinal erectors that was truly formidable.

Park and Reeves both had tremendous legs. Looking at Reg's legs one could see where the power came from for those 400 pound squats that he did as part of his regular training (4 or five sets of 10)

The Reeves underpinnings were beautifully moulded and gave the illusion that they had their greatest girth about 4 or 5 inches above the knee joint.

Arms? Both men were tremendous in this department and very difficult to separate.

When the tall man's class was at last on stage the public and their chance to make comparisons and their chance to decide the winner.

Finally, when the winner was announced it was Steve who had triumphed by a hairs-breadth leaving Reg Park second and Spain�s Juan Fererro a very popular third. Reg also won the title of Mr Europe which was judged concurrently.

The crowd went bananas, Reeves received a tremendous ovation but there were many in the Scala Theatre that night who thought they knew better than the judges. After all as we said earlier the results in physique contest are purely based on opinion. It's all a matter of what the judges are after.

Even now, fifty years later, fans and experts are still comparing Reeves and Park. Probably, in another 50 years they�ll still be at it. Why not? Enthusiasts are still discussing that controversial wrestling bout between Hackenschmidt and Gotch and that was 90 years ago.

Summing up the 1950 Mr Universe, D. G. Johnson, editor of health and strength wrote, "So once more the title of Mr Universe returns to America, the land of its birth. Next time with Reg Park as captain we will take on all comers confident in our ultimate victory."

Reg too, knowing that he had still not reached his peak, was confident that on his second attempt he would win the title, come who may. His defeat only served to increase his determination to win and to put out, in training, nothing short of maximum effort.

History proved him right on all counts.

At the end of that historic day, the score card, as published in the next issue of Health & Strength , looked like this.

Mr Universe Results

MR UNIVERSE 1950 Steve Reeves USARunner-Up Reg Park England Third Juan Ferroro SpainMR EUROPE 1950 Reg Park EnglandRunner-Up Juan Ferroro SpainThird Charles Klejniak Belgium Mr Universe Class One

Winner; Steve Reeves USA

Second: Reg Park England

Third: Hubert Thomas Wales

Fourth: Georges Dardenne Belgium

Mr Universe Class Two

Winner: John Lees England

Second: Oscar Heidenstam England

Third: Mohamed Nasr Egypt

Fourth: Reuben Martin England

Fifth: Ted White England

Sixth: Tom Knott England

Mr Universe Class Three

Winner: Juan Ferroro Spain

Second: Charles Klejniak Belgium

Third: Andre Coutoula France

Fourth: Pierre Bastiou France

Fifth: Tony Chandler England

Sixth: Jean Ladeuze Belgium

Mr Universe Class Four

Winner: Don Dorans England

Second: Leon Himitian Syria

Third: Roger Levy Belgium

Fourth: Norman Bratty N. Ireland

Fifth : John Rodgers N. Ireland

Sixth: Rusty Sellers England


In the concluding part of this series Reg Park wins the Universe Crown in 1951 and becomes one of the legendary trio who, for millions, world-wide, epitomise this title.

Part 3. The End of the Beginning