ANSONIA, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s a Mardi Gras tradition dating back a quarter of a century — crowds gathering in Ansonia to cheer on competitors eating as many paczkis as possible.

It’s an event that puts the “Fat” in Fat Tuesday.

The contest gets bigger and stranger every year. Ansonia put the “punch” in this year’s paczki eating competition by having contestants literally start in a boxing ring at the Ansonia Armory.

The contest started in the late 90s at Eddy’s Bakery.

“They went out of business, but I wanted to keep the tradition going,” said Mayor David Cassetti, who used to be a boxer. “I like feel-good events for my residents here in Ansonia, and each year I try to spice it up with different things.”

The paczki itself is an old tradition. For hundreds of years in Poland, Catholics made what are essentially giant doughnuts to use up all the sugar and lard in the house before Lent.

Almost 20 contestants, young and old, did their best to stuff their faces with as many of the belly bombs as they can in five minutes. Families cheered each other on.

When the final bell rang, long time competitor and Alderman Josh Shuart came in third.

“The regret comes about minute four,” Shuart said. “That’s when you start questioning your life and why you are doing this at all, saying your prayers and whatever.”

Winning the champion’s crown for the third time in five attempts was Manny “The Manimal” Cambra. He downed 11 in five minutes. Then he finished off another just for fun.

What’s his secret?

“There really is no way to prep for it. You’re either built for it or you’re not,” Cambra said.

And will he be back next year to defend his title? He vows, “As long as I live.”