Hakuho outfoxed Tochiozan to make a winning start in his bid for a 25th career title on Sunday, while yokozuna rival Harumafuji also won handsomely on the opening day of the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.
Hakuho won the spring meet in March with a flawless 15-0 record, and the Mongolian powerhouse picked up exactly where he left off in the day’s finale at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Tochiozan made a fist of it and worked Hakuho up against the straw ridge after the tachiai, but the yokozuna’s class shone through as he picked his moment and countered to charge the komusubi out of the dohyo.
Hakuho has set his sights on joining retired yokozuna Asashoryu in third place on the all-time championship list by winning his 25th Emperor’s Cup. In March, he scored his ninth perfect championship win, overtaking yokozuna legends Futabayama and the late Taiho.
Harumafuji, looking to pick up the slack and avoid fresh criticism after a lackluster 9-6 record at the spring meet, turned on the style in the day’s penultimate bout, swiftly setting himself up for a no-nonsense yorikiri win over komusubi debutant Okinoumi.
In other bouts in the upper echelons of the elite makuuchi division, Bulgarian Kotooshu, wrestling with a heavily strapped right knee, began his quest for ozeki survival with a routine force-out win over second-ranked Tochinoshin.
Kotooshu is fighting with his ozeki rank on the line for the sixth time after withdrawing from the spring meet with an elbow injury.
Among the other ozeki, Kotoshogiku disposed of Kitataiki in almost identical fashion in the next bout, methodically working the second-ranked grappler over the straw bales, and Kakuryu came out on top of slugfest with veteran No. 1 maegashira Aminishiki.
Kisensato dodged a bullet to complete a clean sweep for wrestlers at sumo’s second rank, ringside judges correctly awarding the ozeki the win after he had sent Myogiryu down just before he also crashed outside the ring.
Estonian sekiwake Baruto claimed European bragging rights with a force-out win over Russian No. 3 maegashira Aran.