Fans object to Asashoryu’s retirement pay

by Jim Armstrong

The Associated Press

A generous retirement package proposed for former sumo yokozuna Asashoryu has angered some fans in Japan.

The Japan Sumo Association is considering paying him $1.2 million, local media reported Friday. That’s a sum many Japanese see as too much for the Mongolian, who retired last week after a late-night drinking session in which he reportedly hit a man and broke his nose.

The allowance would be the second largest in history following that of former yokozuna Takanohana, who received $1.3 million.

A golfing trip to Hawaii after his sudden retirement and reports that he is considering going into mixed martial arts have done little to garner sympathy for the 29-year-old Asashoryu, who had a checkered reputation throughout his career.

“When you consider all the problems he has caused, it’s hard to imagine he would get that much money,” said office worker Tetsuya Moriyama. “Sumo is part of Japanese culture and wrestlers have to be held to higher standards.”

Sumo wrestlers are normally given retirement bonuses when they leave the sport with the higher-ranked wrestlers getting larger packages.

“I was very surprised by that figure,” said housewife Yoko Higuchi. “He was one of the best grand champions but that’s a lot of money. Times are tough now for a lot of people.”

Asashoryu has often been criticized for not living up to the standards of a yokozuna in a sport associated closely with Japanese traditional culture.

In 2007, he became the first yokozuna ever suspended when it was revealed he participated in a soccer game in Mongolia while citing injury to skip tournaments. In 2003, he pulled an opponent’s top knot during a bout, resulting in an immediate disqualification.

Asashoryu has won 25 Emperor’s Cups, the third most in the history of sumo following Taiho (32) and Chiyonofuji (31).