Yokozuna Hakuho moved within arm’s grasp of his 29th career Emperor’s Cup after disposing of ozeki Kotoshogiku in a savvy display to improve to 12-1 at the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday.
Yokozuna rival Harumafuji, ozeki Kisenosato and rank-and-filer Ikioi each kept their title hopes alive as they remained just one loss behind at 11-2 with two days remaining in the 15-day meet.
Ryogoku Kokugikan got its eighth sell-out crowd of the tournament and Hakuho was all business as he sent Kotoshogiku down to the sandy surface with a pull-down technique when the ozeki attempted to charge forward.
Kotoshogiku fell to his eighth defeat and will be in danger of losing his ozeki rank at the Nagoya Basho in July.
Hakuho meets yokozuna debutant Kakuryu on Saturday and Harumafuji a day later.
Kisenosato put his defeat the previous day to Hakuho behind him, manhandling Goeido when his opponent made an ill-advised decision to go chest-to-chest with the ozeki, who dragged the sekiwake down with an underarm throw to a seventh defeat.
Harumafuji had laser-beam focus as he jumped quickly at the tachiai to get his left hand on the back of Kakuryu’s mawashi and circled his opponent. After getting his right on the front of the mawashi he promptly muscled Kakuryu (9-4) over the straw bales.
Six-time makuuchi champion Harumafuji and Kisenosato, who is vying for his first career title after two failed attempts at yokozuna, clash in the finale on Saturday.
No. 5 maegashira Ikioi stayed in the running when he absorbed a hard throttle from Bulgarian-born Aoiyama (7-6) and wrapped around his opponent before pulling him with an overarm technique.
Endo (5-8) lost his second in a row at the hands of sekiwake Tochiozan (8-5) after being shaken up by Osunaarashi the previous day and slipped to a losing record.
The No. 4 maegashira had no way to contain the powerful thrusts from his opponent as he was tossed like a rag doll into the ringside seats after squatting at the edge with his knees parallel — a mistake frowned upon in sumo.
Earlier, Egyptian-born No. 10 maegashira Osunaarashi, who is fighting in his fourth tournament in the top class, sent makuuchi debutant Sadanoumi (8-5) out with a hard shove to pick up his ninth win here.