OSAKA – Kakuryu’s first win against Hakuho in 21 previous match-ups last time out must have been just the spinach he needed for a death-defying encore performance on Monday.
The Mongolian sekiwake assumed his role as Popeye the Destroyer in an adrenalin-fueled showdown to knock the yokozuna out of sole possession of the lead in the day’s finale, throwing the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament into a four-way tie with six days remaining.
Hakuho is tied at 8-1 with Kakuryu, yokozuna hopeful Baruto and rank-and-filer Shotenro, another up-and-coming Mongolian wrestler. Three grapplers, including ozeki pair Harumafuji and Kotoshogiku, are one off the pace with 7-2 records.
Hakuho appeared to have control of his opponent after a hard bash to the face, but his assault only proved to embolden Kakuryu, who put the yokozuna in an arm lock once before deftly moving inside to grind him over the edge as a packed house at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium cheered wildly.
Kakuryu is making a case for a possible move up to sumo’s second-highest rank of ozeki and his second consecutive win over Hakuho since the New Year meet in January just gave him extra brownie points.
Back in the ring, Baruto got his right hand on Toyonoshima’s (6-3) mawashi for a firm grip immediately after the face-off before handing the No. 4 maegashira his marching orders to stay in the title race.
The Estonian giant is making a run at yokozuna for the first time ever after winning the January meet with a 14-1 mark.
Kotoshogiku deployed his trademark “gaburi-yori” belly bouncing technique to usher out Tochinowaka (3-6), while fellow ozeki Kotooshu (6-3) dispatched with Kisenosato (5-4) in dominant fashion after getting both hands under his rival’s armpits in an all-ozeki affair.
Harumafuji kept his distance from Aran (5-4), jabbing with a few strikes while closely watching his opponent before charging forward for the win.
Shotenro, a No. 16 maegashira, used a beltless arm throw to dump Takarafuji (5-4) in the day’s top-division opening bout.