Takeru Kobayashi (R) Joey Chestnut look on at the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest official weigh-in ceremony in 2009.
Photo: Mario Tama (Getty Images)

Frazier-Ali. Palmer-Nicklaus. Kobayashi-Chestnut. Within the paragon of great personal sports rivalries, surely competitive eating’s now decade-long duel for devouring dominance belongs near the top. The story of Japan’s Takeru Kobayashi and America’s Joey Chestnut will finally get the legitimatizing documentary it deserves when ESPN’s celebrated 30 For 30 series spotlight the two champions in a new episode airing July 2.

“The Good, The Bad, The Hungry” will debut July 2 at 8 p.m. Eastern, just two days before the annual July 4 Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest airs on ESPN2, and will also stream live on ESPN.com. A one-minute teaser for the episode highlights the lengths these competitors went to in preparation for their face-offs: Kobayashi faces off against a grizzly; Chestnut practices jaw exercises with a stress ball. The rivalry seems genuine. “I realized that I hate him,” Chestnut says in a voice-over.

It should provide fascinating background for the annual hot-dog eating contest, where this year’s over-under is set at 73.5.

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