NAGOYA – The first showdown in 29 years between undefeated wrestlers on the final day of a major sumo tournament wasn’t even close.
Ozeki Harumafuji was leagues above rival Hakuho on Sunday, winning the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament and his third career Emperor’s Cup, while denying the yokozuna his 23rd career title.
The Mongolian ozeki, whose last win came here last year, won with a perfect 15-0 record in a tournament for the first time. Hakuho had been the last to achieve the same feat as an ozeki at the 2007 summer basho.
“I believed in myself and put my heart and soul into it until the last fight,” said the 28-year-old Harumafuji, who will be aiming for a shot at sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna at the autumn meet in September.
Harumafuji, who had previously held an 11-22 record in meetings with Hakuho, got a quick jump at the tachiai as he gave the yokozuna a smack to the face before digging his left hand over for a strong grip on the top of Hakuho’s mawashi.
Hakuho, who was seeking his first title in two meets, tried to change grips, but Harumafuji used his opponent’s momentum to twist him around and over the straw bales with his firm left-handed grip driving him all the way out at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.
“After winning last year, I struggled a lot with injuries and I wasn’t able to respond to the fans’ expectations. I promise to train hard and give my all, so I can continue to encourage sumo fans,” Harumafuji said.
Hakuho, whose lack of power to produce a counterattack was glaringly obvious, failed in his bid for a record ninth undefeated championship title. He was heckled by the crowd on the 14th day when he used a “henka” sidestep maneuver to beat ozeki Kisenosato.
“The end result is that I did poorly at this tournament, too. I felt confident because I got my right inside. I wanted to break his balance and go for a throw,” said Hakuho, who failed to win titles at two consecutive meets for the first time since becoming the lone yokozuna at the 2010 spring basho.
“After missing out on two straight titles, I know that I am lacking something. I have to go back to the starting point and remember my fundamentals.”
There have only been four previous times since the establishment of the 15-day system in 1958 that undefeated wrestlers have faced off to decide the championship title on the final day, and it was the first time between an ozeki and yokozuna.
The last time was when Takanosato beat Chiyonofuji in a yokozuna matchup at the 1983 autumn basho.
In other key bouts, Kakuryu dumped rival ozeki Kotoshogiku (10-5) with a powerful underarm throw after getting his left hand in for an outer grip, ending his campaign on 9-6.
Kotooshu manhandled rival ozeki Kisenosato (10-5) in a lopsided bout to pick up his ninth win. Estonian ozeki Baruto (9-6) sent Russian Aran (9-6) packing with a series of hefty shoves.
Rank-and-filers Kaisei and Masunoyama earned the Fighting Spirit Prize as both finished on 11-4, the third best finish in the elite makuuchi class after Hakuho’s 14-1 mark. Myogiryu picked up the Technique Prize, winning on the final day to notch an eighth win.
Kyokutenho, winner of the summer basho in May, salvaged a semblance of pride with his second straight win in a takeout of Hochiyama (1-14) after a nightmare 0-13 start.