Sekiwake Takayasu was officially promoted to sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki on Wednesday by the Japan Sumo Association board of directors.
The 27-year-old, whose father is Japanese and mother is from the Philippines, is the first new ozeki since Mongolian Terunofuji was promoted after the summer tournament in 2015.
Upon receiving the news at a Tokyo hotel, Takayasu, whose full name is Akira Takayasu, said he was experiencing an outpouring of emotions after delivering his “kojo” stage speech, as is customary for a wrestler newly promoted to ozeki status.
“I will devote myself to sumo and compete fairly so I can live up to my name as ozeki,” he said as he knelt down and bowed with his face to the ground, later revealing that he practiced his line for half an hour a day earlier.
“I am really blessed,” he said. “I’ve overcome many challenges to get here. So many people have helped me get this far and I only have appreciation for them. ‘Fair and square’ is my favorite phrase. I want to fight fairly under any circumstances.”
Takayasu also expressed his gratitude to his supportive parents, saying “I caused them a lot of trouble but I’m finally able to repay them for what they have done for me.”
His father Eiji, 66, said his kidney cancer may have served as a catalyst for his son’s success, as he never imagined the 12th-year wrestler would make it past the second-tier juryo division.
Takayasu’s promotion comes six months after his Tagonoura stablemate Kisenosato ascended to the sport’s highest rank of yokozuna.
Kisenosato, who joined Takayasu for a photo session following the ceremony, did not miss the opportunity to compliment the new ozeki on his promotion and said there is nothing better than seeing his junior disciple recognized for his achievements.
“Since around the New Year Basho (in January), I could physically feel his power pumping up from deep below,” said Kisenosato.
“I believed he would transform. There’s a rank above ozeki. I hope we can train together again and grow stronger, and enliven (the sumo world).”
One prerequisite for ozeki promotion is winning at least 33 bouts over three consecutive 15-day grand tournaments. Takayasu entered the recently completed summer tournament needing 10 to meet that standard, and finished with an 11-4 record.
His promotion was rubber stamped on Wednesday by an extraordinary board meeting, and Takayasu will take his place alongside two other ozeki in July’s Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.
Takayasu’s ozeki promotion completes a respectable banzuke for the next Nagoya Basho, with four yokozuna and three ozeki facing off in the same event for the first time since the spring meet in 2000.
In 2000, Takanohana, Akebono, Musashimaru and Wakanohana sat at the yokozuna rank while Dejima, Chiyotaikai and Takanonami filled the ozeki slots.
As ozeki, Takayasu will earn a ¥2.347 million monthly salary in addition to benefits that include business and first-class travel on flights, and access to the reserved basement parking area at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan.
If a wrestler finishes two consecutive tournaments with a losing record, he will be demoted from his ozeki rank. Should he return to sekiwake rank, he could be promoted again with 10 or more wins in the basho immediately following the demotion.
An ozeki needs to win back-to-back championships or an equivalent performance for potential promotion to yokozuna.