Harumafuji faces final test against Hakuho


Harumafuji put one hand up on his fourth career Emperor’s Cup with a ransacking of fellow ozeki Kakuryu on Saturday, setting up a final day showdown against yokozuna Hakuho for all the marbles at the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament.

After Harumafuji blazed through Kakuryu in the day’s penultimate bout to improve to an unblemished 14-0 mark, Hakuho defeated longtime nemesis Kisenosato with an equally powerful performance, bringing his record to 13-1.

Hakuho, seeking his 23rd career title and first in three meets, can force a playoff against Harumafuji with a win against him on Sunday. Harumafuji, who won the Nagoya Basho in July with a perfect 15-0 record, would all but guarantee his promotion to yokozuna with a win over Hakuho in the grand finale of the Tokyo meet.

The lone Mongolian yokozuna holds a 22-12 record over his countryman, but has lost his previous two meetings with the fiery ozeki.

Harumafuji got a turbo start at the tachiai, getting his right hand under the armpit of Kakuryu (10-4) in the blink of an eye before sending his rival retreating over the edge in a frontal force out to extend his winning streak to 30 consecutive bouts.

In the day’s finale at Ryogoku Kokugikan, fireworks were set to erupt before the bout even got started as the two men exchanged glares with Kisenosato intent on not backing down. However, the ozeki’s bark proved to be much louder than his bite once the match begun.

Hakuho rammed Kisenosato with a right elbow to the face that all but stopped the ozeki’s forward motion, and proceeded to violently slap him to the sandy surface with an emphatic thud. Kisenosato slipped to a 10-4 mark.

In other noteworthy bouts, maegashira wrestler Okinoumi beat Chiyotairyu (5-9) by frontal force out to pick up his 10th win, but fellow rank-and-filer and early title contender Takayasu (10-4) was sent packing by technician Aminishiki (9-5).