NEW YORK, July 1 -- It's being billed as the 'Battle of the Boroughs,' but when Nathan's Fourth of July hot dog-eating contest is over, it might look more like the battle of the bulge. Brooklyn-born radio personality Curtis Sliwa began fasting Monday to prepare for his faceoff with Queens engineer and current champion Edward Krachie at the annual weinerfest, to be held at the flagship Nathan's in Brooklyn. Sliwa, 42, decided to enter the frankfurter fray after a Brooklyn politician said it was a crying shame that an outsider could claim the champion's mustard-yellow belt. 'I was born and raised in Brooklyn and I'm hell-bent on bringing that belt home,' said Sliwa, who is the founder of the volunteer patrol group the Guardian Angels. 'I won the Oscar Mayer contest and I'm the world pickle-eating champion, but nothing matters if you haven't raised that Nathan's hot dog belt,' the WABC radio talk show host told United Press International. Sliwa has entered the contest once before, placing third in 1994 to Krachie's second. In 1995, Krachie went on to win by scarfing down 20-and-a-half hot dogs in 12 minutes, just one dog shy of the all-time world record held by Frank Dellarosa, who also lives in Queens. Krachie, 33, said he isn't worrying about Sliwa; he's too busy working on breaking the world record. 'Sliwa couldn't beat my weakest competitor,' Krachie said. But reminded that Sliwa almost defeated him two years ago, he revised his opinion: 'Actually, he's not bad for a lightweight.'
Well, light in comparison. Sliwa, who is 6 feet tall, weighs in at 200 pounds, while his rival is 6 feet 6 inches tall and tips the scales at 330 pounds. 'I have spent my entire life in preparation for this day,' Krachie said. 'I've had a few trial runs. I've dropped a few pounds. And I'm leaner, meaner and more hungry than ever before.' That's why Sliwa is on a hunger strike. Abstaining from solid food for three-and-a-half days is the least he can do to shore up the sagging reputation of his hometown, he said. 'I recognize that because of his size, he has an edge. My only hope is that I'll be so starved that sheer hunger alone will propel me to the top,' he said. The sausage showdown takes place at high noon at Nathan's Coney Island restaurant.