OSAKA – Ozeki Kakuryu got on the war path in his first yokozuna promotion bid, dispatching rising star Endo on the opening day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
It was far from pretty as the ozeki nearly found himself on the losing end, but he rebounded in the nick of time to kick off his campaign on a winning note at Bodymaker Colosseum.
Kakuryu lost on the first day of the New Year basho before winning his next 14 bouts, including beating Hakuho on the final day, although he lost to the yokozuna in a playoff. The ozeki could get the green light for promotion to the top rank by winning his career first title with at least 13 wins.
No. 1 maegashira Endo, who is at the highest rank of his brief career, was left with a stream of blood running down the side of his head after being flung into the ringside seats. Endo will lock horns with yokozuna Harumafuji on Monday.
Hakuho, who is aiming for his 29th career title this time out, was business as usual and hardly broke a sweat as he bent down low and forced out komusubi Shohozan in a matter of seconds. Hakuho will move within two of Chiyonofuji’s mark and three of the all-time record of 32 held by sumo legend Taiho with a championship in Osaka.
Harumafuji, who is still recovering from ligament damage in his left ankle and ailing with an injured right elbow, got Toyonoshima off-balance before deploying a kubinage neck throw.
The yokozuna, who missed the entire New Year basho through injury, left the dohyo with his topknot filled with dirt after rolling on the top of his head as he brought down his opponent.
Kisenosato, who is facing demotion after a failed bid at yokozuna in January, avoided using his injured big toe as he maneuvered gingerly around the ring before dumping Okinoumi with an overarm throw.
The ozeki, who finished with an unflattering 7-8 mark in January, must notch eight wins to remain at ozeki.
Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who is nursing an injured right shoulder, employed his healthier left hand to barge out Tamawashi to make it three wins out of three for sumo’s second highest rank.
Local favorite Goeido was unable to maneuver into a strong position, but the sekiwake found a way to twist down Tochinowaka for a first-day win.
Bulgarian Kotooshu, who is appearing in his second meet at sumo’s third rank of sekiwake after his demotion from ozeki after the November tournament, started off in the winning column with a convincing win over Brazilian-born Kaisei.
Early on, Osunaarashi, sumo’s first Egyptian-born wrestler, got his right hand on the top of Tokushoryu’s mawashi and mowed down his opponent in textbook fashion to open his account with a win.