38-year-old to focus on lifting, posing, not music
By Seabrook Mow
Special to The Advertiser
Clifton Torres is passionate about two things: music and bodybuilding.
Clifton Torres finally earned his pro bodybuilding qualifying card after winning the bamtamweight division at the Nationals in Dallas.
In fact, Torres, a 38-year-old Honolulu carpenter, is so successful in bodybuilding that he held off his music career to fine-tune his muscles for posing.
"It feels pretty good on finally becoming a pro," said Torres.
He is Hawai'i's first pro bodybuilder since Alan Ichinose, a lightweight, competed professionally in 1989.
Torres got his opportunity to become a professional after winning the bantamweight class at the 2002 Nationals in Dallas last month. At the nationals, all weight-class winners earned pro qualifying cards. He now is able to compete for purses at all shows except the invitation-only Arnold Classic and the Mr. Olympia contest, regarded as the sport's elite events.
"At the pro shows, that's where you win money and endorsements, while in amateurs all you win is a trophy and bragging rights," he said.
Becoming a pro wasn't easy for Torres, a single father of two Ryan, 16, and Chanie, 14, students at McKinley High School. For six years he struggled on the national level the minor leagues of bodybuilding before finally breaking through to the winners' circle.
It took Torres six years to win his class at the Mr. USA contest, another amateur-level pro qualifier. Other Hawai'i bodybuilders won their respective weight classes in only two or three tries.
And when Torres finally won his class at the Mr. USA last July in Las Vegas, he didn't receive a pro card because those went to only the show's top two overall winners. "I've done 13 national shows, the most for Hawai'i," said Torres. But, "by taking so long I could see (what) I had to improve on and work on, so it basically took me six years to complete the package of becoming a pro."
"Clifton's one of the most persistent bodybuilders," said Hawaiian Islands Bodybuilding Championship promoter Mits Kawashima.
"He goes on and on. He had a goal in mind and kept striving for it and it finally arrived. I give him a lot of credit. And to be 38 years old and to keep doing it, especially by winning two national shows within the same year. That's very rare," said Kawashima. "I can also say, he's the best bantamweight out there right now; he sticks out like a sore thumb."
Cindy Lee, State of Hawai'i National Physique Committee chairwoman, said "This was basically Clifton's time. He has the total package."
"But it's his personality that I see when he's on stage. He poses with his heart. You can tell the difference when someone poses just to pose. With Clifton, you can see the flow in him. A person can have a good physique, but if they cannot pose to the music it will throw them off."
During his trying times in bodybuilding, Torres briefly tinkered with the thought of exchanging his dumbbells for his trumpet.
At Farrington High School he was first chair trumpet player and earned a UH band scholarship. His two children took the musical path and play in the McKinley High School band. Ryan plays trumpet, Chanie the clarinet.
Torres hopes to compete in his first pro bodybuilding show early next year. "People told me if I rest, people might forget about me and say, 'Cliff who?' "
The learning curve for pro competition is steep, because there are no weight classes. That means Torres' physique will have to compete with that of the 250- to 300-pound posers.
"It's going to be hard to compete against those big boys," said Kawashima. "But if he was taller, and with his type of physique, he would be one of the best in the world."
Torres acknowledges that although he may never win a pro show, he looks forward to bringing in that extra income that still comes with lower finishes. However, his motivation is to prove to audiences on the Mainland that Hawai'i has quality bodybuilders.
Torres will pose at the next Hawaiian Islands Championships. "Mits told me that if I won (at the nationals), he'll invite me as a guest poser," said Torres.
"I'll be glad and proud to have him as a guest poser," Kawashima said.
"And again, I want to say, for his size he has one of the best bodies I've ever seen."