William Perry underdog in hot dog eating contest

Resplendent in a white tuxedo, Michael Buffer bellows out another variation of the signature line he uses for boxing matches: Let's get ready to gobble! In this corner, weighing in at over 400 pounds and wearing the stained Mike Ditka T-shirt, the colossus of girth, the fountain of fat, a true Monster of the Midway and former defensive tackle for the world champion Chicago Bears: William "The Refrigerator" Perry.

And in this corner, the champion weighing in at a wiry 131 pounds, a 5-foot-7 Japanese man wearing clothes that would fit a jockey yet somehow capable of astounding, awesome feats of gluttony, world record-holder and infamous aficionado of meat byproducts and nitrates: Takeru Kobayashi.

Fade out my imaginary Buffer introduction. Today's competition at Coney Island isn't about hype, or a bizarre form of sumo wrestling. It's purely about grubbing, a sublime celebration of pigging out.

Today marks the 88th annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest to be aired on ESPN. Hold the mustard, please.

Entrants include the aforementioned and quite gargantuan Mr. Perry who gained a reputation in the Windy City for being lovably lazy and for turning sumptuous buffets into an afternoon snack. Of course, Mr. Perry isn't the prohibitive favorite, opening on one international gambling site as a 100-1 longshot.

Capable of downing 50 hot dogs in a dozen minutes, the diminutive Mr. Kobayashi is expected to defend his title as prince of pork. Las Vegas likes him at a 3-1 clip.

Kobayashi is the king of scarfing down tubes of processed meat.

He shattered the previous record by downing 50 hot dogs in 2001, gaining eight pounds in the process. Last year, Kobayashi broke his own record by one-half dog by besting Eric "Badlands" Booker, a 6-foot-5, 400-pound New York transit conductor.

His method is as simple as it is gut-busting. Kobayashi folds the buns in half and chomps down both halves at once in the style of King Solomon. Alas, our chunky friend, The Fridge, only met minimum qualifications by eating just 12 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Yes, regurgitating during this unusual sport would result in an automatic disqualification.

Why eat all these hot dogs? It's obviously not healthy, but health is for wimps, right? Kobayashi won't be swayed by these nutritional facts. According to Nathan's Famous, each hot dog sans bun carries 309 calories, 20.1 grams of fat and 35.4 milligrams of artery-hardening cholesterol. That means 50 hot dogs adds up to 15,540 calories, 1,005 grams of fat and 1,770 milligrams of cholesterol.

Yes, that's more than six times the calories, 15 times the fat intake and nearly six times the cholesterol that any sane, licensed doctor would recommend.

Can Perry overcome Kobayshi's jaws that rival the eating power of a great white shark? At least one mammal has vanquished Kobayashi. In a competition dubbed "Man vs. Beast," Kobayashi was soundly defeated by a 1,000 pound Kodiak bear named Diamond that devoured 50 hot dogs in under two minutes.

Unless there's a grizzly bear or a shark involved, I'm betting on Kobayashi sending Perry home to South Carolina as the bloated owner of a gastronomical defeat.

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