Kisenosato remains in control


Kisenosato won the 59th edition of sumo’s longest-running top-flight rivalry in the blink of an eye Monday as he maintained his perfect record on the ninth day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Kisenosato, in sole possession of the lead at the turning point for the first time in his career, exploited fellow ozeki Kotoshogiku’s penchant for charging low on the tachiai.

Kotoshogiku (7-2) wasn’t quick enough to surprise his opponent. Instead of catching Kisenosato off balance, he charged into an ambush and was easily yanked to the surface in less than a second.

Kisenosato, seeking his first career championship, improved to 27-32 in their 59 career bouts — a new record for the makuuchi division.

On Tuesday, Kisenosato will go for win No. 10 against yokozuna Kakuryu, whom he holds a 29-15 career record against.

Kotoshogiku, the surprising champion in January, is eyeing a second career title that would likely earn him promotion to yokozuna. But with two losses under his belt and a two-win gap between him and Kisenosato, those chances are now looking increasingly slim.

A day after a violent match left him spattered with his opponent’s blood, yokozuna Hakuho (8-1) stayed one win off the pace with a straight-forward victory over komusubi Tochiozan (2-7).

Yokozuna Harumafuji (7-2), who has been hanging in there despite a bruised-and-battered right knee, triumphed over No. 4 maegashira Ikioi, who suffered his second straight loss after starting the tournament 7-0.

After an uninspiring win the day before when he slyly dodged his opponent’s charge with a frowned-upon henka move, Goeido showed his best in a one-sided force-out win over yokozuna Kakuryu (7-2). The victory left the ozeki one win back of Kisenosato, while ensuring his rank for the next tournament in May.

Despite being hobbled by injuries, ozeki Terunofuji (6-3) seized a crucial win over sekiwake Toyonoshima (1-8).

Also a kadoban ozeki in need of a winning record to retain his rank, Terunofuji appeared physically unable to cope one day earlier. Although less than fit, the ozeki latched onto Toyonoshima and hung on for dear life before twisting down his opponent.