It's not quite Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, or Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, but the ongoing rivalry between Matt "the Megatoad" Stonie and Joey "Jaw" Chestnut played out yet again at the Fourth of July hot dog eating contest at Nathan’s Famous.
But this year, the tables turned.
Stonie defeated Chestnut, the reigning champion, in an unexpected win Saturday at the annual competition in Coney Island, N.Y.
With 62 hot dogs and buns, Stonie dethroned the No. 1 eater in the world as designated by Major League Eating, a federation that oversees competitive eating events. His two-dog lead gave Stonie his first victory over Chestnut -- and the $10,000 first prize.
"Joey is an amazing competitor, I know he brings 110% to the sport and to beat him by a couple of hot dogs --” said Stonie, trailing off in an interview with ESPN after the match. “You know I trained hard for this. I can’t say I came confident, but I came prepared."
Chestnut humbly accepted his defeat.
“He deserved to win,” Chestnut told ESPN. "I'm happy for him, I'm happy to be here."
The two competitors have gone head-to-head for three straight years. But while the pair of San Jose, Calif., natives are friendly once excused from the table, during competition it is strictly about the dogs and buns.
On Saturday, the crowd cheered ecstatically as a line of contestants moved their arms mechanically from plate to mouth to pick up the meat and bread that stretched before them. They had 10 minutes to consume the most hot dogs, and Chestnut was going for his ninth title.
At the beginning, Stonie and Chestnut were neck-and-neck, each displaying a characteristic style. Water and other drinks are allowed but Chestnut hardly drank, while Stonie greedily washed his food down.
With approximately seven minutes still left on the clock, Stonie took a half-dog lead. Two minutes later, he glanced right at his competitor.
With 2:06 left, Stonie was averaging 6.62 hot dogs per minute, with Chestnut close behind at 6.24.
“Joey’s gonna kick it in, this is where Joey plays hard,” remarked the ESPN announcer. “Even a casual observer knows that Joey is killer in the last two minutes.”
But there was no last-minute kick. Stonie held on.
"Ladies and gentlemen, after 10 minutes of the most wrenching competition I have ever seen, one of these eaters had 62 hot dogs and buns, and one of these eaters had 60 hot dogs and buns,” said emcee Sam Barclay.
Matthew Stonie was Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Champion of the World, Barclay declared, raising Stonie’s arm.
The result was markedly different from 2014, when Chestnut’s then-fiancee cheered loudly before the table. That year, Chestnut started at a record pace. As an early shower turned into heavy rainfall, the rivals went head-to-head until Chestnut sealed the contest in the final minute, scarfing 61 dogs to Stonie’s 58.
On Saturday, Chestnut told ESPN he now had a reason to come back next year.
“I’ve been looking for competition for a long time and now I have it, and he’s made me hungry,” he said.