Yokozuna Hakuho will be gunning to become only the third man in history to win six straight titles as the lone yokozuna takes up his prestigious east position for the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, as the Japan Sumo Association announced the sumo rankings on Tuesday.
Hakuho, who will hold sumo’s highest rank by himself for the sixth consecutive time at the Jan. 9-23 meet at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan, is chasing former yokozuna Asashoryu’s record of seven consecutive titles. Former grand champion Taiho won six straight, twice.
Veteran ozeki Kaio has given himself a pleasant surprise with a return to the east slot after 21 meets following his outstanding 12-3 performance at the Kyushu Basho in November.
However, ozeki Harumafuji, who pulled out of the previous meet with an injury to his right ankle, will be in danger of demotion from sumo’s second-highest rank for the first time ever.
Yokozuna killer Kisenosato, who played hero by stopping Hakuho’s winning streak at 63 bouts in Kyushu, returns to the east sekiwake position for the first time in three meets. Kotoshogiku, another returnee, sits on the west at sumo’s third-highest rank.
Tochiozan and Kakuryu both have been demoted from sekiwake to fill in the east and west komusubi spots, respectively.
Toyonoshima, who tied Hakuho in regulation with a 14-1 record before falling to the Mongolian yokozuna in a playoff in Kyushu, has shot up from No. 9 to No. 1 maegashira.
Wakakoyu and Toyohibiki return to the top flight makuuchi for the first time in three meets, while Toyozakura is back after two tournaments in the second-tier juryo division.
With the addition of Wakakoyu and Toyohibiki, all six wrestlers who were demoted to juryo for gambling on pro baseball have returned to the makuuchi class.
There were no wrestlers newly promoted to the “sanyaku,” the three ranks below yokozuna, for the second consecutive meet and no newcomers to the makuuchi.