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Asashoryu flexed his muscles to see off troubled komusubi Kokkai on Monday and grab sole possession of the lead on the ninth day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photoNo. 6 Maegashira Baruto, left, unleashes a hard push en route to forcing out fourth-ranked maegashira Kakizoe on Monday during the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
KYODO PHOTO

The lone grand champion underlined his title credentials by getting in low at the charge and toppling the winless Georgian with a leg-grab to make it nine wins out of nine in the 15-day meet at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.

Asashoryu, who is seeking his third straight title and 19th Emperor’s Cup overall, moved one win clear of overnight co-leader Kaio, who was barged out to a first defeat by fellow ozeki Tochiazuma.

Tochiazuma, Chiyotaikai, Baruto and rank-and-filer Homasho are also one behind the front-running yokozuna.

Local favorite Kaio was unable to respond to raucous cheers from his home fans and allowed Tochiazuma to easily bulldoze him over the straw ridge.

Faced with the threat of demotion for a record 10th time, injury-weary Kaio came into the meet looking to restore pride, but the 34-year-old has looked like he could mount a challenge for his first title on home soil.

However, there was never any danger of a repeat for fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai and Bulgarian Kotooshu, who both posted comfortable wins.

Kotooshu sent komusubi debutant Aminishiki (3-6) spinning to the clay surface for a sixth victory, while Chiyotaikai used his trademark arm thrusts to dispatch komusubi Kisenosato (4-5) with minimal fuss.

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