Danny Padilla

Danny Padilla

Professional bodybuilder
Date of Birth: 03.04.1951
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Danny Padilla
  2. Bodybuilding Career

Biography of Danny Padilla

Danny Padilla, an American bodybuilder known as the "Giant Killer," started training when he was seven years old in Rochester, New York. He watched his older brother and cousin lifting weights to become stronger for wrestling competitions. He acquired a rusty "York" barbell from his brother Ray and quickly became Mr. America. This was shortly before he became completely enamored with the iron game and began training seven days a week.

Bodybuilding Career

By the time Padilla turned eighteen, he was ready to compete. He won the Mr. Rochester contest in 1970 while still in high school. It was his first competition, and he took home the first-place trophy. The only question that crossed Padilla's mind after that was, "When is the next show?"

He participated in many other small competitions in northern New York - Mr. Buffalo and Mr. Syracuse. Establishing himself on the local scene, he began competing in both the Junior Mr. America and Mr. America contests. He finished in the top twenty of both competitions. Padilla then competed in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) World Championship in the lightweight division. He recalled, "I lost to a guy who didn't even shave his legs!" This defeat was a turning point. After the show, the judges were kind enough to inform him that, in their opinion, he had an excellent physique but at 5 feet 2 inches tall, he was too small to compete.

After the AAU show, Padilla decided to compete in the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) instead. His first competition was the 1975 IFBB Mr. USA. It took place in the old Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was the first time the 23-year-old athlete saw bodybuilders from the West Coast. Among them were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Robbie Robinson, and many others. To his astonishment, he not only won his lightweight class but also became the overall champion. It was during this impressive debut with the IFBB that Padilla first met Joe Weider. Weider introduced himself as the "guy from Rochester" backstage, telling Padilla that he had a great physique and that he could do very well in the sport. Weider also invited him to train in California.

Padilla arrived in Los Angeles just in time to participate in the filming of the movie "Pumping Iron." He trained for three months to prepare for the lightweight competition at the upcoming Mr. Universe in South Africa, for which he qualified based on his previous victory at Mr. USA. Disaster struck in Pretoria. Just minutes before the start of the Universe show, Padilla was told that he couldn't compete. The IFBB decided that they would prefer the United States to be represented by two heavyweights - Ken Waller and Mike Katz - and one middleweight, Robbie Robinson. Their reasoning was that since Katz was retiring, they wanted to give him a chance to win the Universe one last time. Padilla quickly maneuvered to secure a spot on the Portugal team. He was confident that he could win the lightweight class and was determined to compete. After all the pre-contest preparation, the trip to South Africa, and several hours of filming, he would attempt to bring the title home, even under the flag of Portugal. The IFBB didn't want any of it. They disqualified Padilla to avoid what they considered to be the "embarrassment" that his potential victory for Portugal would cause the organization.

Padilla now exists as a visual footnote in "Pumping Iron." The filmmakers were forced to cut most of his scenes from the movie because the IFBB didn't want the entire incident shown. Getting back on track the following year, Padilla competed in the IFBB Universe but suffered defeat at the hands of Mohamed Makkawi. In 1977, he competed again in the IFBB and participated in the Mr. America contest. This time, he left the stage with a trophy in both his weight class and overall. It was the first time a lightweight defeated the middleweight and heavyweight for the overall title. In the same year, Padilla won the lightweight title at the IFBB Mr. Universe. He is one of only two people in the sport's history to win both America and Universe titles in the same year, the other being Frank Zane. Padilla then performed exceptionally well at the 1977 Mr. Olympia. He placed in the top five in both his weight class and overall.

Danny Padilla was inducted into the IFBB Joe Weider Hall of Fame in 2009.