FUKUOKA – Mongolian firebrand Asashoryu heads up the east side as the lone yokozuna for the 18th tournament in a row while countryman Hakuho starts from scratch at ozeki as the Japan Sumo Association announced the rankings for the upcoming Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.
Sumo’s dominant force Asashoryu, who won the autumn tourney in September with a 13-2 mark, will be the hot favorite to claim his 19th Emperor’s Cup in the Nov. 12-26 meet at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
However, Hakuho is back at square one after failing in his second bid for yokozuna promotion with an 8-7 record last time out and will be on the west side along with Bulgarian bruiser Kotooshu. Veteran ozeki duo Chiyotaikai and Tochiazuma sit on the east side.
Hakuho, who won his first Emperor’s Cup in May with a 14-1 record, showed his caliber as a future sumo great with a win over Asashoryu in July but failed to convince sumo officials in his first crack at promotion despite posting 13 wins.
After his flop in September, the 21-year-old now needs to perform strongly in at least two consecutive tournaments before being considered again for promotion to the highest rank.
Injury prone ozeki Kaio, who pulled out midway through the autumn meet, is back in familiar territory — threatened with relegation — and will have his rank on the line for a record 10th time.
Elsewhere, sekiwake Kotomitsuki will be wrestling at sumo’s third rank of sekiwake for the seventh tournament in a row while Aminishiki makes his komusubi debut 38 tournaments after wrestling in the elite makuuchi division for the first time.
Aminishiki’s brother Asofuji joins sumo’s top flight after winning promotion from the second-tier juryo division. They will be only the ninth siblings to wrestle in the makuuchi division.