The Giant Killer. It was the right nickname for Danny Padilla, who, at 5’2″, made a habit of defeating opponents much taller during a professional bodybuilding career that spanned an impressive 22 years. In fact, Padilla placed in the top 10 in 96% of the professional contests he entered, and for many he still ranks as the best short bodybuilder ever. Arnold Schwarzenegger has stated that Padilla had the best symmetry of any bodybuilder. For all those reasons, he has earned his Hall of Fame investiture.
Born on April 3, 1951, in Rochester, New York, Danny was the sixth child of Ramon and Frances Padilla. Danny started working out around 1958, when, in the first grade, he encountered his first muscle magazine and was inspired to become a bodybuilder. Some mail-order courses were delivered, some improvised weights were employed and some chinups were performed. His consistency was greatly rewarded and his hard-earned muscularity later caught the eyes of high school coaches who requested that he wrestle, or become a gymnast, or play football. Despite the pull of many different sports endeavors, his focus remained solely on becoming a competitive bodybuilder.
In 1970, 18-year-old Padilla became Mr. Rochester, in his first competitive foray. He then moved on to national contests, where it wasn’t an easy ride at first: he placed eighth at the 1972 AAU Jr. Mr. America in York, Pennsylvania, and then slipped to 15th at the same contest in ‘73. A month later, in the AAU Mr. America, he managed only 15th.
His next victory came a month before he turned 23 – Mr. Syracuse – but his 18th place at the 1974 AAU Mr. America may have hastened his fortuitous decision to switch to the IFBB. The following year, at the Felt Forum Theater in the old Madison Square Garden, he stood four inches under the 5?6″ height limit for the shortclass at the 1975 IFBB Mr. USA, but he won his class. He also defeated medium- and tall-class winners Roger Callard and Denny Gable for the overall. The Giant Killer was born. The following year, only Mike Mentzer prevented Padilla from winning the IFBB Mr. America in New York City.
Padilla’s IFBB pro career took off in 1978 in Los Angeles when, at age 27, he was runner-up to Robby Robinson in the Pro World. In fact, every time Padilla placed second in IFBB pro contests, the winner was always named Robinson (twice Robby, one Eddie). Overall, Padilla placed top five in half of his 26 IFBB shows.
In 1990, Padilla left the IFBB for Vince McMahon’s fledgling World Bodybuilding Federation. Padilla competed in what proved to be that organization’s only two events, placing out of the top five in both.
About two years after the WBF failed, Padilla returned to the IFBB in the Masters Olympia division. He managed to place seventh in 1994 and 10th six years later. Then, at age 49, Padilla, a man considered by some to be the best-developed bodybuilder ever of his height, retired from competition, leaving a legacy that belied his height.
1972 Junior Mr America – AAU, 8th
1973 Mr America – AAU, 15th
1973 Junior Mr America – AAU, 15th
1974 Mr America – AAU, 18th
1974 Junior Mr America – AAU, Did not place
1974 Mr World – AAU, Short, Did not place
1975 Mr USA – IFBB, Short, 1st
1975 Mr USA – IFBB, Overall Winner
1976 Mr America – IFBB, Short, 1st
1976 Universe – IFBB, Lightweight, 2nd
1977 Mr America – IFBB, Overall Winner
1977 Mr America – IFBB, Lightweight, 1st
1977 Universe – IFBB, Lightweight, 1st
1978 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Lightweight, 3rd
1978 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Overall, 6th
1978 Professional World Cup – IFBB, 2nd
1978 USA vs the World – IFBB, Lightweight, 1st
1979 Best in the World – IFBB, Professional, 5th
1979 Florida Pro Invitational – IFBB, 3rd
1979 Grand Prix Pennsylvania – IFBB, 5th
1979 Night of Champions – IFBB, 2nd
1979 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, Lightweight, 5th
1980 Grand Prix Miami – IFBB, 3rd
1980 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 10th
1981Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 5th
1982 Night of Champions – IFBB, 5th
1982 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 12th
1983 Night of Champions – IFBB, 9th
1984 World Pro Championships – IFBB, 7th
1985 Mr. Olympia – IFBB, 16th
1986 World Pro Championships – IFBB, 13th
1990 Grand Prix England – IFBB, 5th
1990 Grand Prix Finland – IFBB, 4th
1990 Grand Prix France – IFBB, 5th
1990 Grand Prix Germany – IFBB, 7th
1990 Grand Prix Holland – IFBB, 7th
1990 Grand Prix Italy – IFBB, 4th
1990 Niagara Falls Pro Invitational – IFBB, 2nd
1990 Night of Champions – IFBB, 3rd
1991 WBF Grand Prix – WBF, 10th
1994 Olympia – Masters – IFBB, 7th
2000 Olympia – Masters – IFBB, 10th
2009 IFBB Hall Of Fame
Official website: www.dannypadilla.com