“Intensity builds immensity.” With a name like the “Maryland Muscle Machine,” there is no question that Kevin Levrone has left his mark on the bodybuilding world as an IFBB professional and an IFBB Hall of Famer. In fact, competing professionally for 12 years between 1991 and 2003, Levrone set the record after competing in 68 IFBB professional contests with 23 professional wins, which was the most wins ever achieved by a single bodybuilder. Losing the record to Ronnie Coleman just a year after his unofficial retirement in 2004, Levrone made a grand return to the bodybuilding circuit in 2016 at the Mr. Olympia where, at 51 years old, he proved that he is one of the few bodybuilders who continues to get better with age.
Long before becoming a household name in the bodybuilding industry, Levrone was born one of six children to an African American woman and an Italian-American man who settled in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1960s. While his birth year is often contested with sources suggesting that he was born anywhere between 1965 and 1968, most argue that Levrone was born on July 16, 1964, shortly before losing both of his parents to cancer. Turning to his siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles for support and guidance after such a tragic loss, it wasn’t long before Levrone found his way to the gym.
Inspired after seeing his cousin’s growing muscular physique after serving only a few months in the military, Levrone became more serious about weight training himself and eventually discovered his passion for bodybuilding. He launched his career with the IFBB in 1991 with his first heavyweight bodybuilding competition with the National Physique Committee (NPC), the NPC Junior Nationals. Winning second place in his first contest, he competed in the NPC Nationals only a few months later and took the title, which inspired him to launch his professional career despite having only one year of competitions under his belt.
In 1992, Levrone made his Mr. Olympia debut and, to everyone’s surprise, came in second place, which is incredibly rare for a newcomer. Shortly after the competition, Levrone made headlines once again when he tore his pectoral muscles after attempting to bench press 600 pounds. The injury was so severe that surgery was required to reattach his pectorals back together. After the first eight-hour surgery, Levrone suffered an infection that required yet another extensive operation. This left many to assume that the Maryland Muscle Machine’s career as a bodybuilder was completely over; however, he persevered and surprisingly returned to the stage later the same year.
Proving that hard work and dedication truly pay off, Levrone competed in the 1993 Mr. Olympia contest and earned fifth place, which was incredibly impressive considering he was still recovering from two surgeries. The following year, he was back in the heat of competition with a third-place finish before he climbed even higher in 1995 with a second-place finish. Continuing to compete in contests like the Arnold Classic, the San Francisco Pro Invitational, the Night of Champions and Grands Prix in England, Russia, Germany, and Spain among numerous others, Levrone found great success and many first-place victories but never secured a win at the prestigious Mr. Olympia. Instead, his four-time second-place rankings in 1992, 1995, 2000 and 2002 sealed his fate as “The Uncrowned King of Mr. Olympia.”
Amid 13 years of competing professionally, Levrone’s most notable bodybuilding victories came in 1994 and 1996 when he took first place at the Arnold Classic. Over the next few years, he secured top five finishes in everything from the 1998 Toronto Pro Invitational and the 1999 Grand Prix England to the 2002 Grand Prix Australia, the 2003 Arnold Classic and the 2003 Show of Strengths Pro Championship before he disappeared from the spotlight completely without making any official announcement regarding his retirement.
As many wondered why the 5’11” tall Levrone never announced his retirement, he claimed it was because he never truly felt that he had retired. Instead, he simply shifted gears and focused on his other passions like golf, tennis and, believe it or not, acting. Appearing in films like Backlash, Redline and I Am over the years, Levrone also proved his talents as an entrepreneur and launched his own supplement brand—the Kevin Levrone Signature Series—in 2015 in addition to his online training platform—TeamLevrone.com—in 2016. No longer competing, Levrone’s competitive edge was fueled by the blossoming adrenaline from running his own business.
After 13 years out of the spotlight and seeing his record-breaking 23 professional wins be overturned by the legendary Ronnie Coleman, Levrone did the unthinkable in 2016 when he announced his return to bodybuilding. Always known for his incredible ability to train quickly for competitions without spending a dozen long, grueling months in the gym, Levrone entered the 2016 Mr. Olympia competition at 51 years old where he took the stage with bodybuilders 10 to 30 years younger. Although he finished in 16th place, his courage to come out of retirement did not go unnoticed as fans, fellow bodybuilders and commentators couldn’t hide their awe over Levrone’s incredible physique.
Today, Levrone is possibly one of the most underrated bodybuilders in the industry after years of second-place finishes at the Mr. Olympia contest where he lived up to his reputation as the Maryland Muscle Machine and rocked an impressive 250-pound physique with 24-inch arms, 32-inch legs, a 57-inch chest and a 29-inch waist. Bench pressing an upwards of 530 pounds prior to his injury, Levrone is thrilled with what he’s accomplished throughout his career. And, whether he takes the stage at the 2017 Mr. Olympia or not is still up for debate but one thing is for certain, Levrone is ready for anything as he says, “I don’t know what the future will bring to me, but I want to be ready when it comes.”