Asashoryu shrugged off fresh reports of thuggish antics off the raised ring to clinch his 25th Emperor’s Cup on Saturday with a victory over compatriot Harumafuji on the penultimate day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Sumo’s self-styled enfant terrible, accused by a tabloid magazine of becoming embroiled in a drunken scuffle at a Tokyo night spot during the first week tournament, needed to be on top of his game to see off the challenge of ozeki Harumafuji (11-3) in an absorbing encounter at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
The Mongolian yokozuna had a couple of wobbly moments in the day’s finale but his class shone through in the end, sending Harumafuji sprawling with an underarm throw to secure the title with a 13th win.
“I wanted to get it over and done with in a moment but he was very stubborn,” said Asashoryu. “I am glad I was able to take my chance when it came.”
Asashoryu’s latest championship triumph gave him sole possession of third place on the all-time list behind former yokozuna greats Taiho (32) and Chiyonofuji (31).
Asashoryu has been involved in repeated run-ins with sumo officialdom for a slew of misdemeanors and he could be in more hot water after tabloid-style magazine Friday claimed he was “hammered” after leaving a drinking establishment in downtown Nishiazabu and punched an associate, who turned out to be one of his managers.
Back on the dohyo, Hakuho (11-3) registered his first win in three bouts when he tipped Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (8-7) over but it was too little, too late for the yokozuna, who had come into the 15-day meet as the favorite to lift his 13th title.