FUKUOKA – Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho put on a show for Beatles legend Paul McCartney on Thursday, preserving his share of the lead with a clinical win on the fifth day of action at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
With McCartney, playing nearby Yafuoku Dome as part of his Japan tour on Friday, watching from the “masu-seki” boxed seats at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, Hakuho kept Toyoshima (2-3) at arm’s length after the charge and then picked his moment to haul the No. 2 maegashira down by the back of his neck.
McCartney, watching his first live basho in 20 years, having also attended the 1993 Fukuoka meet, nearly stole the show after the last bout as he posed for photographs and shook hands with spectators as chants of “Paul, Paul” rang around the arena.
Hakuho shares the lead with fellow yokozuna Harumafuji and rank-and-filers Masunoyama and Shotenro at 5-0.
A 28th career championship for tournament favorite Hakuho would leave him three behind Chiyonofuji (31) and four behind the legendary Taiho (32) on the all-time titles list.
Hakuho’s hard-pressed rival Harumafuji, coming off a 10-5 record in which he was dogged by injuries, got both arms around Takayasu and swung down the third-ranked maegashira (1-4) to stay perfect.
Also at the top, ozeki Kakuryu moved into the winning column at 3-2 after slapping and thrusting his way past top-ranked Myogiryu (1-4), while Kisenosato, the only other ozeki still standing at the 15-day basho, dug in deep to see off winless maegashira Kyokutenho.
Bulgarian Kotooshu withdrew with a dislocated left shoulder on Wednesday and looks set to lose his ozeki rank after 47 tournaments.
Failure to rejoin the tournament — unlikely given that he is expected to need four weeks of treatment — and a losing record will result in Kotooshu being demoted to sekiwake for the January meet.