Hakuho beats Asa, denied promotion


Ozeki Hakuho showed his caliber as a future sumo great with a win over yokozuna Asashoryu in a convincing style Sunday but failed to convince sumo officials in his promotion chase on the final day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo Ozeki Hakuho forces down yokozuna Asashoryu to improve his record to 13-2 on Sunday on the final
day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium.

Hakuho (13-2) toppled previously unbeaten Asashoryu (14-1) at the edge of the dohyo after an enthralling belt-grip battle in the finale of the 15-day meet at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, 24 hours after the grand champion clinched his 17th career Emperor’s Cup.

After their bout, Japan Sumo Association officials made clear that Hakuho will have to wrestle in at least one more tournament as an ozeki before being considered for promotion to the highest rank in the sport.

JSA Chairman Kitanoumi said before the start of the tournament that Hakuho, winner of the summer meet in May, would need to earn at least 13 wins with a tournament victory or an equally strong showing.

JSA chief judge Hanaregoma said Hakuho’s performance this time was impressive but he never posed a threat to Asashoryu in the race for the Emperor’s Cup, pointing to the two losses he suffered in the first nine days.

On Sunday, Hakuho allowed Asashoryu to gain early control of their match, but resisted an attempted throw and belt-grip lift by the fellow Mongolian before turning the tables to deliver decisive shoves with a tight belt-grip. Hakuho beat Asashoryu for the fourth time in 11 meetings.

In other key bouts, sekiwake Miyabiyama (10-5), aiming to return to the ozeki status he lost five years ago, appeared shaky early in his bout but kept his composure to walk 10th-ranked maegashira and Fighting Spirit Prize winner Tamanoshima (11-4) out of the ring to notch his fifth straight win.

Many thought Miyabiyama’s promotion hopes were dashed when he dropped to his fifth loss in a 10th-day bout. But top JSA officials suggested Saturday that they may discuss the possibility of promoting him back to ozeki. However, the JSA concluded Sunday that it will assess the 28-year-old’s performance for another tournament.

Injury-plagued Bulgarian wrestler Kotooshu was made to work hard before hauling down fellow ozeki Tochiazuma to secure a winning record, leaving both men at 8-7. Veteran Kaio beat Chiyotaikai (9-6) with a timely throw to notch his ninth win.

Estonian giant Baruto (9-6), wrestling as a No. 4 maegashira, unleashed a series of devastating slaps and thrusts to send 20-year-old komusubi Kisenosato (8-7) flying down to the ringside seats.

Russian Roho secured a winning record after making an unexpected “henka” move at the faceoff, sidestepping to the left to dispose of sekiwake Kotomitsuki (8-7) with a soft slap on his shoulder.

It was Roho’s fourth win in five bouts after returning from a three-day suspension imposed by the JSA for assaulting photographers. The third-ranked maegashira finished with an official record of 8-5, including a loss by default, with two rest days.