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Kakuryu beats Hakuho to close in on spring title

Kyodo

Ozeki Kakuryu put himself in the driver’s seat for his first title and promotion to yokozuna on Saturday, when he defeated Hakuho to take the sole lead with a 13-1 record at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

The Mongolian ozeki entered the penultimate day of the 15-day event at Bodymaker Colosseum in a tie for the lead with yokozuna Hakuho, who hurt his right hand in suffering his first loss the day before.

Kakuryu — who also defeated yokozuna Harumafuji on Friday — will be considered for sumo’s top rank should he win his bout on Sunday, when he will face fellow giant-killing ozeki Kotoshogiku.

Kotoshogiku defeated Hakuho on Friday and followed that with a win over Harumafuji in Saturday’s final bout.

Kakuryu on Saturday fought the larger Hakuho to a standstill at the initial charge, keeping the yokozuna’s back to the straw before finally tipping him over with a frontal force-out.

Hakuhos record fell to 12-2, and he can only hope to force a playoff should Kakuryu lose his match on Sunday.

In January, Kakuryu stunned the yokozuna on the final day to pull even at 14-1 to invite a playoff. Although Hakuho won the championship, Kakuryu earned a spot on the yokozuna promotion track.

Harumafuji’s defeat to Kotoshogiku (8-6), also by yorikiri, saw him fall out of contention with an 11-3 record. He will fight Mongolian countryman Hakuho in Sunday’s finale — a match that will only figure in the championship should Kakuryu lose.

Egyptian No. 11 maegashira Osunaarashi once more failed to collect his eighth win, although he fought a good fight against 39-year-old Kyokutenho (9-5).

Osunaarashi, who won his first seven bouts in Osaka before suffering a thigh injury on the eighth day, looked stronger than he has in days, but still lacked the lower-body strength to shove out his veteran opponent when he had the opportunity.

The defeat left Osunaarashi with a record of seven wins and six losses, with one rest day due to his injury.

Popular up-and-coming wrestler Endo (6-8) will finish the tournament with a makekoshi losing record after being knocked back at the tachiai and then shoved off the raised ring by No. 7 maegashira Chiyotairyu (9-5).