It was billed by Major League Eating organizers as a make-or-break moment for one of their biggest stars. Passersby just saw two guys quickly gobbling lots of giant calzones.

Six-time world champion Takeru Kobayashi of Tokyo faced current No. 1 ranked Joey Chestnut of San Jose on Saturday in Culver City in what was characterized as a chance for Kobayashi to show he’s still a stomach to contend with. Kobayashi, 31, won by downing almost six calzones in six minutes, a feat he accomplished by taking several mouthfuls of calzone between gulps of water.

He disagreed with the contention that he had been eating to save his name.

“I don’t feel that way at all,” he said through a translator. “I’ve always been the champion.”


Afterward, he posed on stage for photographers and pretended to eat his calzone-shaped trophy. The two rivals will meet again July 4 in Coney Island for the annual hot-dog-eating contest.

-- Raja Abdulrahim