Estonian ozeki Baruto zeroed in on his first championship title with a crafty win over Kisenosato on Thursday, preserving his unbeaten record with three days left at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Baruto (12-0) deployed a frowned-upon “henka” technique and dodged Kisenosato at the charge, quickly pulling him down to move two wins ahead of yokozuna Hakuho, who was mugged by fellow Mongolian Harumafuji at the 15-day Tokyo meet and slipped to 10-2.
Former nightclub bouncer Baruto improved to 18-3 against Kisenosato, but his latest victory triggered murmurs of disapproval among spectators at Ryogoku Kokugikan, with some booing and jeering his slippery tactics.
The day’s final bout produced a carbon copy of Baruto’s win as Hakuho charged headlong into the front row of ringside cushions after ozeki Harumafuji (9-3) had jumped aside at the “tachiai.”
Baruto could win the title on Friday if he beats Kotoshogiku and Hakuho fails to beat Kotooshu.
Kisenosato, who is making his debut at sumo’s second rank of ozeki, dropped to 9-3 after his second defeat in succession.
In other bouts in the upper ranks, Bulgarian bruiser Kotooshu got drawn in by Takayasu (4-8) but followed through and rammed the third-ranked maegashira out for a ninth win, while ozeki Kotoshogiku (7-5) overpowered Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu (8-4).
Sekiwake Toyonoshima snapped a six-bout losing streak when he got both arms round Okinoumi (2-10) and bellied the second-ranked maegashira over the edge to improve to 4-8.
Wrestling for pride having already suffered a majority of losses on his return to the sanyaku ranks, former ozeki Miyabiyama (3-9) got bumped out by second-ranked Goeido (5-7) and top-ranked Takekaze (3-9) completed a miserable day for the sumo’s fourth rank of komusubi by sentencing Wakakoyu to a ninth defeat.
Eighth-ranked Tochiozan’s slim title hopes took a large hit when he got sent down by makuuchi newcomer Chiyonokuni, leaving both wrestlers at 9-3.