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Hakuho stays in control

Kyodo

Yokozuna Hakuho was all business on Monday, easily racking up his ninth win on the ninth day of the 15-day Summer Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.

After watching two championship rivals barely stave off defeat in the previous two bouts, Hakuho was in imperial form as he retained his sole lead, one win ahead of ozeki Kisenosato and No. 5 maegashira Ikioi, both at 8-1.

In the day’s final match, sekiwake Tochiozan exploited an off-balance charge by struggling new yokozuna Kakuryu to slap him to the surface. Kakuryu fell to 6-3, while Tochiozan collected his sixth win.

Kisenosato won a see-saw match with Yoshikaze (3-6) that raged across every inch of the ring. Although pushed back on the initial charge, Yoshikaze fought back with a ferocity that seemed to take the ozeki by surprise. The komusubi controlled the center of the ring and nearly pinned Kisenosato back on the ring’s edge twice only to see him slip away.

The komusubi’s full-throttle effort finally took its toll on his energy. Yoshikaze crumpled to the sandy surface but earned a raucous applause for his efforts.

The spirit of upset remained thick in the air and energized No. 5 maegashira Shohozan, who repeatedly had yokozuna Harumafuji on the ropes. But like Kisenosato, Harumafuji (7-2) was able to keep his balance at crucial junctures and walked off a winner.

Hakuho, however, did not give young gun Endo (4-5) enough time to even consider more fireworks. The yokozuna overpowered the No. 4 maegashira on the tachiai and rammed him out of the ring in a tour de force.

Ikioi also remained a win off the pace when the No. 5 maegashira defeated fellow rank-and-filer Aminishiki (5-4).

Ozeki Kotoshogiku improved to 5-4 by forcing winless Kyokutenho out. The ozeki got great leverage on his initial charge and kept the No. 3 maegashira off balance, forced him back onto the straw bales and out.