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Undefeated yokozuna Harumafuji inches closer to title

Kyodo

Harumafuji took apart Kotoshogiku and closed in on his third championship title in four meets Thursday as chief rival and fellow Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho crashed to a second loss at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.

Harumafuji watched Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu (7-5) topple Hakuho in the day’s penultimate bout at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan and took full advantage, slapping about ozeki Kotoshogiku (6-6) and dragging him down to improve to 12-0.

Harumafuji can secure the title with two days to spare on Friday if he beats ozeki Kisenosato (10-2) and if 23-time Emperor’s Cup winner Hakuho and rank-and-filer Takayasu both lose.

Hakuho was second best as Kotooshu steamed in hard at the tachi-ai and got control of the front of the yokozuna’s belt before finishing him off with a powerful shove.

Kisenosato warmed up for Friday’s meeting with Harumafuji by bulldozing out fellow ozeki Kakuryu (8-4), while in the lower ranks, Takayasu, a No. 7 maegashira, kept his slim title hopes alive with a hikiotoshi hand pull down win over 15th-ranked Tochinowaka (8-4).