Hakuho proved an impregnable force for ozeki stalwart Kisenosato in an electrifying showdown of undefeated wrestlers Saturday, putting himself within arm’s length of his 25th Emperor’s Cup at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.
The yokozuna improved to 14-0 while Kisenosato slipped to 13-1 with one day left at the 15-day meet. It was his seventh consecutive win against the ozeki.
Kisenosato famously ended Hakuho’s winning streak at 63 bouts at the 2010 Kyushu Basho — a constant reminder of what can happen if he is just a little off his game when facing the fiery ozeki.
In front of a sold-out house at Ryogoku Kokugikan, Hakuho darted swiftly to the side at the tachiai and got his hand on the ozeki’s mawashi, but he was confounded at every turn as Kisenosato refused to budge.
As the match progressed, Hakuho somehow found a way to wriggle the bigger man off balance before plopping on top of him as he himself went crashing down.
With dirt smeared across Kisenosato’s back and Hakuho’s right arm, the pair appeared as if they had truly been at war. Hakuho improved to 31-8 in career matchups against his rival.
The ozeki, who still has a chance of forcing a playoff against Hakuho, saw his own winning streak of 16 dating back to the Spring Basho grind to a halt. Kisenosato is trying to become the first Japanese-born wrestler to win a title since Tochiazuma did so at the 2006 New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
The yokozuna can wrap up his 25th career title on the final day Sunday, which will place him in a tie for third on the all-time list with retired yokozuna Asashoryu.
With a win over Harumafuji on Sunday, he will go 15-0 in his second consecutive tournament in what would be his record 10th “zensho-yusho,” or title victory without a loss.
In other matches, Harumafuji (11-3) sent ozeki Kakuryu (10-4) out with an overarm technique, while ozeki Kotoshogiku bulldozed No. 4 maegashira Toyonoshima (7-7) out in a matter of seconds to earn his 10th win.
But relegation-haunted Kotooshu (7-7) inadvertently tumbled off balance and onto the dohyo in a match-up against Shohozan, who improved to 8-6. The Bulgarian ozeki is on the bubble and must win his bout against Kakuryu on Sunday to save his rank.
Sekiwake Goeido assured a demotion after he was pushed out to an eighth defeat by No. 10 maegashira Chiyotairyu (10-4).