Mongolian ozeki Kakuryu will be a candidate for promotion to sumo’s highest rank in March, the head of the Japan Sumo Association’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council indicated Monday.
The council held its regular meeting following the final day of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, in which ozeki Kakuryu defeated Hakuho for his 14th victory before losing to the yokozuna in the championship playoff. Council chairman Hitoshi Uchiyama indicated that Kakuryu would be recognized as a candidate for promotion to yokozuna at March’s Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka.
The standard benchmark for recommending an ozeki for promotion to the exalted yokozuna rank is achieving two consecutive championships or results of that caliber. Uchiyama expressed his opinion that Kakuryu will need to win a minimum of 13 bouts and capture his first Emperor’s Cup in order to make the grade.
Yamauchi described Kakuryu’s performance as “overpowering with the determination needed to defeat Hakuho.”
Association chief Kitanoumi has already said that winning a championship is a prerequisite for promotion to the sport’s highest rank. Yamauchi, however, diverged from that view in December in the case of Japanese ozeki Kisenosato, who entered the January tourney as a yokozuna candidate. Kisenosato, however, failed to even get close and finished with a losing record.
Prior to the New Year tourney, Yamauchi cited the importance of having a native Japanese yokozuna.
“If he (Kisenosato) wins 14 matches but falls in the decisive match, his promotion would be OK,” Yamauchi said on Dec. 26.
“The majority of sumo fans are eager to see a domestically produced wrestler assume his place as a yokozuna.”
Hakuho and fellow yokozuna Harumafuji are both from Mongolia.