NAGOYA — Make that 35 straight and counting for sumo’s top gun.
Mongolian champion Hakuho overpowered countryman Asasekiryu to remain undefeated on the third day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.
With the victory, Hakuho — winner of the previous two meets — extended his victory run to 35 to match former yokozuna Asashoryu’s record, putting him in a share of fifth on the all-time list for consecutive victories.
In the day’s finale at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, Hakuho was never fooled by the top-ranked maegashira, who tried to sidestep at the faceoff to gain some leverage.
Once the yokozuna was wise to his opponent’s ill-advised tactic, he unleashed a fierce frontal assault to repel winless Asasekiryu out of the ring to improve to a 3-0 mark.
The 25-year-old lone yokozuna has shown the utmost composure under a ton of pressure thus far, as sumo is facing its biggest crisis ever due to a gambling scandal rocking the ancient sport.
Over a dozen wrestlers have been suspended and several sponsors have pulled out of the meet or reduced prize money considerably.
Back in the ring, Kisenosato (2-1) went backpedaling over the edge when he got a late jump at the charge against komusubi Tochinoshin (1-2), who muscled the sekiwake out in a frontal force out.
And it was a day of utter disappointment for three of the four wrestlers who hold sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki.
Mongolian Harumafuji could not get anything rolling and was sent out to a second defeat in his match against Kyokutenho, who improved to 2-1.
Ceremony in doubt
Asashoryu’s retirement ceremony may not take place if things get worse for the former grand champion.
“If Asashoryu were to be indicted, we would have to think about canceling his retirement ceremony,” his former stablemaster Takasago said Monday after police sent prosecutors papers on the Mongolian for allegedly assaulting a man in January.