Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

May 11, 2011

Arm-wrestling legend Cleve Dean passes

VALDOSTA — A South Georgia man known internationally as the “Arm Breaker” died Tuesday.

Cleve Dean of Pavo became an internationally known arm-wrestling champion. He won matches throughout the United States. He competed around the world.

Preliminary reports claim he died of a heart attack near  Stockbridge, Ga., Tuesday. Dean was 58 years old.

Cleve Dean appeared in the 1987 Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling movie “Over the Top.” Legend claims that Stallone’s character was supposed to arm wrestle Dean at the movie’s conclusion. Producers reportedly felt no one would believe even Sylvester Stallone could defeat Cleve Dean, who stood 6-foot-6 and weighed more than 300 pounds during his championship years. Dean’s hand could eclipse an entire beer can. Stallone’s hand would have vanished in the massive vortex of Cleve Dean’s palm. So, Ox Baker was tapped as Stallone’s final competitor instead.

In his prime of the late 1970s and early ’80s, Dean won more than 60 world championship titles. He could grapple either right hand or left hand.

“I totally dominated arm wrestling and wrist wrestling there for so long, I reckon I just got burned out,” Dean told The Times in a 1996 interview. Referees became more difficult than his competitors. “It got to be where associations had entire Cleve Dean rules.”

By the early 1990s, he had left professional arm wrestling. His weight ballooned to more than 600 pounds. He was 100 percent disabled. He suffered constant back pain. He shared fears of having a heart attack 20 years ago. He trained and lost weight. He returned to arm wrestling in 1993, a move he called “premature.”

By 1996, he continued working out through isometrics, a stationary bike, and walking through chest-deep water. He struggled to return to his 300-pound prime, reducing a 72-inch chest to 64 inches.

Earlier this year, The Times interviewed Dean, who said he had last competed in the mid-2000s. He was bothered by a hip-joint replacement. He had a mobile home business. Dean said he had given his life to God. Though in his late 50s, he weighed the possibility of competing again.

Overall, he considered himself blessed.

“I’ve met more people than, well, anybody around here, I guess,” Dean told The Times. “I’ve met some of the most famous movie stars there are, some of the most famous athletes, people from every walk of life there is, boxers, baseball players, football players, and gone and judged the Strongest Man competition. I’ve been a judge for that a couple of times. So I’ve sat elbow to elbow with some celebs, and it’s not something I’m bragging on, but it’s something I’m proud of and thankful that I was able to do and going to these places and seeing these countries firsthand. I’m proud of it. I’ve been very blessed, very fortunate to do the things that I’ve done and see the things I’ve seen, and met the friends that I’ve made.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ARociewilliams_002.jpg Woman shares nearly a century of lessons

    With nearly 100 years of life under her belt, Ocie Viola Williams has plenty of advice to share with the world. Her top two pieces of advice: know the importance of education and don’t expect a teacher to raise your child for you. 

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • psst1 photo page copy.jpg PSST! finishes peachy season

    Peach State Summer Theatre concluded its 2014 season Sunday, a season which broke attendance records for the professional musical theatre company.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • DSC_2381.jpeg Award-winning young professionals share success secrets

    The Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber’s MetroOne Young Professionals hosted a panel discussion on Tuesday at the Hilton Garden Inn to highlight successful business practices.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140726_summerlibrary002.jpg Library celebrates end of summer reading program

    With the first day of school just around the corner, students are soaking in the last few weeks of summer vacation. The end of summer also means the end of the South Georgia Regional Library’s 2014 summer reading program.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • artseason1 copy.jpg A sneak peek at some area arts organizations’ 2014-15 seasons

    Beethoven. Tennessee Williams. Non-stop art. Two versions of “The Wizard of Oz.” The 2014-15 arts season is coming.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • sabalmap.jpg Sabal Trail explains its position

    Representatives from Sabal Trail Transmission recently sat down with The Times to provide an update on the ongoing pipeline and potential economic development opportunities associated with the project.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072514-MoodyComp007.jpg Moody AFB crews race in load competition

    Moody Air Force Base hosted a weapons load competition Friday morning, a maintenance group tradition in which two 23d Maintenance Group A-10 munition load crews raced against the clock to load munitions onto an A-10C Thunderbolt II.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • moonshine bust.jpg Police close illegal drinking house

    After receiving numerous complaints, the Valdosta Police Department shut down an illegal alcohol sales operation Friday.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • election.jpg Black earns most votes in runoff

    State Rep. Ellis Black led the votes for state Senate District 8 Friday with seven of seven counties reporting certified results, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 140724-LAT1.jpg Little Actors Theatre ready for summer show

    Since 2004, the Little Actors Theatre has provided a place for children ages 6 to 19 to express themselves through acting.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results