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Fiery Asashoryu wins again at New Year meet

Kyodo News

Under-fire Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu delivered another satisfying riposte to his detractors with victory over Kotoshogiku at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

Asashoryu surrendered belt control in the day’s headline bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan but held his nerve to wrap up the top-ranked maegashira (0-2) and twist him to the ground.

Win No. 2 provided Asashoryu with another welcome psychological boost as he aims to revive his fortunes and silence talk of early retirement following a testing six months.

Asashoryu suffered an elbow injury in July that forced him to withdraw during the Nagoya and autumn meets and also ruled him out of the entire Kyushu meet last November.

However, the 22-time Emperor’s Cup winner, whose career has been blighted by unruly behavior both in and out of the ring, needs to produce the same kind of form deep into the 15-day meet to avoid growing calls for him to step down.

In the day’s other bouts of note, Asashoryu’s compatriot and yokozuna rival Hakuho stayed perfect with another convincing win while Harumafuji saw his ozeki debut dented with a second straight upset loss.

Gunning for a fourth consecutive championship win for the first time in his career, title favorite Hakuho was all business in the day’s penultimate bout, patiently picking his moment to force out Kyokutenho (0-2).

But Harumafuji, looking to match his impressive showing in Kyushu, lost control against Miyabiyama (1-1) and allowed the second-ranked maegashira to counter and twist the ozeki down at the ring’s edge.

Hakuho defeated Harumafuji (then called Ama) in a championship playoff in Kyushu after the two tied with 13-2 win-loss records.

Kotomitsuki (0-2) also suffered another embarrassing defeat when he got rammed out by third-ranked Takekaze (1-1) but fellow ozeki wrestlers Kaio, Kotooshu and Chiyotaikai all preserved their unbeaten starts.

Battle-weary Kaio, wrestling with his rank on the line for a record 12th time, hauled down Aminishiki (1-1) to collect the second of eight wins he needs to avoid demotion.