Kakuryu set for ozeki debut


New ozeki Kakuryu pledged Monday to entertain fans at the upcoming Summer Grand Sumo Tournament.

“My first goal is to secure a winning record, but I’ll make sure I put my best effort in each bout and try to pump up sumo fans,” Kakuryu told a press conference at his Izutsu stable.

Earlier in the day, the Japan Sumo Association released the rankings for the May 6-20 tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan, where there will be six ozeki for the first time in the history of the ancient sport.

Kakuryu earned promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank after coming close to winning his first Emperor’s Cup at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in March, only to lose to lone yokozuna Hakuho in an all-Mongolian playoff.

It has been a little over a month since Kakuryu officially became ozeki on March 28.

“Now people recognize me on the streets,” Kakuryu said. “I feel good about being encouraged by all kinds of people.”

Asked to comment on people’s expectations for his first title, Kakuryu said, “I feel tension building up in my shoulders when I think about that. I’ll just concentrate on what I’m doing. I might have my eyes on the title after I pick up my eighth win.”

Also on Monday at the Miyagino stable, Hakuho shared his views about the upcoming tournament.

“Everyone is getting stronger,” he said. “It’s the first time in sumo history that there will be six ozeki. I’m proud of myself for being yokozuna in this historic period.”

With his 22nd career title in March, Hakuho tied former yokozuna Takanohana for fifth on the all-time list.

“I feel like I still have a long way to go,” Hakuho said. “It’s only midway though my sumo career.”

Mongolian sumo wrestlers have won a total of 49 titles.

“It’s going to be No. 50 for us, right?” Hakuho said. “It sounds good. I want to be the one to mark the 50th.”