Written by Ron Harris
27 February 2017

17mikematarazzo-part22

Star Profile: Mike Matarazzo - The Boston Mass Interview Part 2

 

 

I first met Mike Matarazzo in January of 1991, six months before he would catapult to fame as that year’s surprise USA Champion. From the tough working-class city of Somerville just north of Boston, Mike was truly one of the most popular and recognizable bodybuilders of the 90’s. At 5-10 and 245 pounds, Mike wowed audience with his enormous 23-inch arms and the biggest calves ever seen. Though Mike never won a pro show or made top five at the Mr. Olympia, he graced the covers of many magazines and was in higher demand as a guest poser than anyone else during that decade. Matarazzo bowed out of the sport in 2001 and moved to the quiet Northern California city of Modesto, where he now lives with his wife Lacey and children Michael, 2, and Mia, just six months old. The bodybuilding world was shocked when Mike underwent a triple bypass first in 2004, then again following a heart attack in November of 2007. In an interview I have literally been waiting over fifteen years to conduct, we talked about his health, his amazing ten-year career as a pro, the potential dangers of steroids, and much more.

(Note: This interview was conducted in March 2008. Mike died on August 16, 2014 at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, CA, while awaiting a heart transplant.)

 

Do you have any regrets, such as never winning a show, or never making top five at the Olympia?

MM: There were two shows I should have won, where I took second to Porter Cottrell one time and Milos Sarcev at the other contest in Canada. To this day I know there is no way they beat me on those particular days. With the Olympia, there is some disappointment that I never did better than ninth place. I guess it just wasn’t in the cards for me.

 

If I might say so, I recall a pattern where you would look incredible for the spring shows, then like crap at the Olympia. Maybe your body just couldn’t peak twice a year like that?

MM: You just read my mind! My body never responded the second time to the diet and the training the same way, and I would usually look stringy and smooth. I never had a guru or a nutritionist working with me. Maybe there were some secrets I didn’t know that could have helped, who knows? I know it also didn’t help that I was guest posing every single weekend. All that traveling does take a toll on you.

 

You were the busiest and most popular guest poser for years, even more so than anybody that happened to be Mr. Olympia at the time. Was it more satisfying being ‘The People’s Champion’ than it might have been to win contests and get less publicity and fan support?

MM: You know, I did over a thousand guest spots in my career. I was usually booked a year in advance and I went just about everywhere in the world a few times. Guys like Dorian wouldn’t take so many appearances because he knew it would screw up his eating and training, but I looked at the sport as a business. If the fans and promoters wanted me, I would go and put on a show for them. Maybe I did burn myself out, but I had a lot of fun and met a ton of great people. It would have been nice to win a couple shows, but being as popular as I was – I wouldn’t trade that.

 mikep21

You were also a very good amateur boxer in your teenage years. How far do you think you could have gone in that sport if you hadn’t switched to bodybuilding?

MM: I was a Golden Gloves boxer, but I would never have made it as a professional heavyweight. Those guys that were 6-4 with an 82-inch reach would have clobbered me. I loved the training for boxing, but realistically I wasn’t meant to be one of the greats in it.

 

What was the happiest moment from your competitive days?

MM: I would have to say winning the USA in 1991. Ed Connors gave me the opportunity to come out and train at Gold’s Venice for the six months leading up to the show. I had the best training partner of my life, Brian Regan, working out with me and I got into the best condition of my career. It was a blast. When I had left Boston, guys at the gym were telling me I wouldn’t even get a callout because it was all politics and nobody knew who I was. For me to beat favorites like Flex Wheeler and Chris Cormier was amazing. Until then I had just competed in a couple local shows in Massachusetts. And on my first try for a pro card, I got it.

 

Were you cool with the fact that despite having a very good overall physique, you were always known for your freaky arms and calves?

MM: Not at all! Those were my moneymakers. Big arms have always been coveted in bodybuilding. Every guy wants to have huge biceps and triceps with nice shape and detail, and mine were 23 inches at their biggest. Calves are something that genetically you either have or you don’t, and I was grateful to have those too. I hardly ever trained them and they still looked insane. The only area I could never get to grow was my back. No matter what I did, my biceps always took the work and grew. But you still see pictures of my arms and calves in the magazines. It’s all good.

 mikep22

How did that trademark most-muscular pose with your tongue sticking out get started?

MM: That was just me and my personality. I was having a good time up there. I was also the first guy to jump off the stage and hit poses in the audience. I was doing that in 1992. Now they all do it.

 

What do you do for a living these days?

MM: I’ve been a licensed bail bondsman for going on four years now.

 

Wow, just like Dog the Bounty Hunter!

MM: (laughs) No, it’s not as glamorous and exciting as they try to make it seem. I’ve only had to fight two guys the whole time. Everyone else just comes along peacefully. The majority of these people are just low-level drug dealers or users, not homicidal maniacs.

 

I thought you owned a gym?

MM: I did have a Gold’s Gym for a few years, but I sold it in 2000. What I didn’t realize when I was getting into the gym business was that to succeed, you have to be at the place all the time. I really didn’t want to spend every waking moment at a gym.

mikep23 

What’s your workout regimen like these days?

MM: I just do cardio, no weights at all. My doctor said that lifting weights could put too much of a strain on my heart, which I can’t afford to do. I spend a lot of time on the Stairmaster.

 

How long have you been in Northern California? How does it compare the the Venice area where you used to live?

MM: I’ve been up here in Modesto since 1997. It’s the total opposite of Venice – farmlands, lakes. Just a low-key, quiet place. There are some nice lakes in the area, and I do a lot of fishing. Venice was just too Hollywood, with people all strutting around like they’re movie stars and so much talking behind each other’s back.

 

Do you still follow pro bodybuilding? Do you think that there’s been a trend away from the blockier mass monsters towards guys with better shape like Dexter, Victor, Dennis Wolf, and Phil Heath?

MM: I have to say I don’t really follow it anymore, and it’s not out of bitterness. People wonder why I don’t go to the shows anymore and it’s for the same reason – it just makes me too sad. I mean, my time has passed and I don’t look the way I used to. But I do think it’s good that they are swinging more towards symmetry. I think Dexter and Victor have incredible physiques. Those bloated guts were out of control.

 mikep24

Is it good to see a fellow Massachusetts native as the reigning Mr. Olympia for the last two years?

MM: I’m so happy for Jay. It’s been awesome watching him come up the ranks over the years. Here’s a guy nobody thought was going to make a good pro, and look at him now. Jay is a true hardcore bodybuilder and has worked for everything he has.

 

Before we go, do you have a website your fans can check out?

MM: You know, I don’t even own a computer. I’m a caveman!

 

Well then, how about a few closing words?

MM: I want to thank everybody for their well wishes and support over the past couple years. It means a lot. I am also grateful that so many people still remember me and have remained fans. I will always love the sport of bodybuilding. I would also encourage anyone out there reading this to really think hard when it comes to putting artificial things in your body to have bigger muscles. Remember that we are all mortal and we all only have a short time on this earth – so think twice before you do anything to make that time shorter. Life is precious and nothing is more important than the time you spend with your loved ones.

 

Contest History

1990 Gold’s Classic Boston                           Heavyweight and Overall

1991 USA Championships                             Heavyweight and Overall

1991 Mr. Olympia                                           Did not place

1992 Ironman Pro                                           Fifth place

1992 Arnold Classic                                       Fifteenth place

1993 Arnold Classic                                       Sixth place

1993 Pittsburgh Pro                                        Second place

1993 Night of Champions                              Eighth place

1993 Mr. Olympia                                           Did not place

1994 Arnold Classic                                       Ninth place

1994 San Jose Pro                                         Eighth place

1995 Florida Pro                                             Seventh place

1995 South Beach Pro                                   Seventh place

1996 Grand Prix Czech Republic                   Ninth place

1996 Grand Prix Russia                                  Ninth place

1996 Grand Prix Switzerland                          Ninth place

1996 Night of Champions                               Fifth place

1996 Mr. Olympia                                           Thirteenth place

1997 Canada Pro Cup                                    Second place

1997 Grand Prix Germany                              Eleventh place

1997 Grand Prix Hungary                               Tenth place

1997 Grand Prix Spain                                   Tenth place

1997 Night of Champions                               Fourth place

1997 Toronto Pro                                            Second place

1997 Mr. Olympia                                           Thirteenth place

1998 San Francisco Pro                                  Seventh place

1998 Toronto Pro                                            Third place

1998 Night of Champions                               Third place

1998 Mr. Olympia                                           Ninth place

1999 Mr. Olympia                                           Eleventh place

2000 Night of Champions                               Did not place

2000 Toronto Pro                                            Sixth place

2001 Night of Champions                               Fifth place

2001 Mr. Olympia                                           Twenty-first place

 

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