FUKUOKA – Yokozuna Hakuho will line up on the prestigious east side for the first time in the absence of fellow Mongolian Asashoryu, the Japan Sumo Association announced on Monday as it released the rankings for the upcoming Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
Asashoryu is suspended for the Nov. 11-25 meet at Fukuoka Kokusai Center and is back on the west side for the first time since making his debut at sumo’s top rank of yokozuna at the 2003 spring tournament.
Asashoryu was also absent from the autumn basho last month after he was hit with a two-tournament ban on Aug. 1 for playing in a charity soccer match in Mongolia in late July, despite having been permitted to skip a regional training tour due to injuries.
Asashoryu was diagnosed with a stress disorder shortly after being slapped with the suspension and is currently being treated for the disorder and other injuries in his homeland.
The 21-time Emperor’s Cup winner is expected to return to Japan after the Kyushu meet and is likely to be back on the raised ring for a winter regional tour beginning in Oita Prefecture on Dec. 2.
Autumn champion Hakuho will be the favorite to win in Fukuoka and secure his fifth title in the last tournament of the year.
Elsewhere, injury-plagued ozeki Kaio pulled out of the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament with a thigh injury, and now the 35-year-old will be wrestling in front of his home fans with his rank on the line for a record 11th time.
Kotomitsuki, who posted 10 wins in his ozeki debut in September, has been given the top east slot opposite Chiyotaikai, who went 9-6 last time out.
There was no change at sumo’s third rank of sekiwake for Aminishiki and Asasekiryu.
Goeido was rewarded for his sparkling 11-4 showing in his debut in the elite makuuchi division, getting bumped up in the rankings from 14th to sixth-ranked maegashira.
Estonian man mountain Baruto returns to the top flight as a 16th-ranked maegashira after winning the second-tier juryo division with a 13-2 mark.
In an unusual move, the west slot set to have been filled by Tokitsuumi for No. 11 maegashira has been left vacant.
Tokitsuumi was given the position at a meeting to determine the “banzuke” rankings on Sept. 26, but he has since retired from the ring and taken over the running of the Tokitsukaze stable from dismissed former sumo elder Tokitsukaze.
Tokitsuumi took charge on Oct. 9, four days after Tokitsukaze was fired by the JSA for his alleged involvement in the hazing that led to the death of a 17-year-old wrestler at the stable in June.