FUKUOKA – Injury-hit yokozuna Harumafuji gave overnight sensation Ichinojo a rude awakening, thrashing his opponent in a sumo clinic on the opening day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
A sell-out crowd was on hand on the first day in Kyushu for the first time in 17 years, anticipating a possible upset by newly promoted sekiwake Ichinojo — the man who in just his second appearance in the elite makuuchi division has been nicknamed “The Monster.”
But Harumafuji, who has shrugged off a fracture around his right eye suffered at the September basho to compete in the 15-day meet, was in full-destruction mode at Fukuoka Kokusai Center after missing 10 days last time out.
Hakuho, who is seeking to match the all-time record of 32 career championships held by sumo legend Taiho with a fourth consecutive title, steamrolled Ikioi in the day’s finale, while sumo’s third yokozuna Kakuryu handed out an eviction notice to Takekaze.
Ichinojo, who posted an outstanding 13-2 record in his makuuchi debut at the autumn basho while giving Hakuho a run for his money in the title race, appeared off his timing and was abruptly upended by Harumafuji in the pair’s first meeting.
The 21-year-old, 199-kg Ichinojo, who had a breakout of shingles in October, will face a stern test here as he must fight all of the top-ranked wrestlers.
Hakuho, sumo’s premier yokozuna, won six straight titles in Kyushu up until last year, where he was stopped by rival Harumafuji. It was 43 years ago when the late Taiho won his 32nd title at the age of 31 at the 1971 New Year basho. At 29, the sky still seems limitless for Hakuho.
Goeido, who went a pedestrian 11-4 in his debut at the second-highest rank at the autumn basho, got off on the wrong foot when he shoved Takarafuji to the edge, only to be brought down with a shoulder-swinging technique when he foolishly rushed forward.
But Kisenosato and Kotoshogiku, the two other Japanese-born ozeki, saw off technician Aminishiki and Tochiozan, respectively, to get off to flying starts.
Kotoshogiku, who held a subpar 9-14 record in career bouts against his opponent ahead of Sunday’s bout, countered after being shoved to the ridge when he got a left hand around his opponent before escorting the No. 1 maegashira out by yorikiri.
Earlier, Tochinoshin, who is appearing for the second straight time in the elite division after falling as far as the third-tier makushita, made mincemeat of popular wrestler Endo, crushing his fellow No. 8 maegashira over the edge by yoritaoshi.