Harumafuji lays down marker at spring basho


Resurgent yokozuna Harumafuji picked up where he left off in January with a clinical win over komusubi Tochiozan on the opening day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament in Osaka on Sunday.

Harumafuji, who rebounded from a poor showing on his yokozuna debut in November to win the New Year basho with a perfect 15-0 record, kept Tochiozan at bay with a pair of two-handed shoves to the face and picked his spot to send him tumbling with a pulling overarm throw.

Harumafuji made a lackluster 9-6 debut at yokozuna at the Kyushu meet and faced the threat of an enforced early retirement if he had posted an equally dismal record at the New Year basho two months ago.

But sumo’s 70th yokozuna proved his critics wrong by leaving a trail of destruction in his wake, beating rival yokozuna Hakuho on the final day to win his third championship in four meets with an unblemished 15-0 mark.

Harumafuji has dislodged Hakuho from the prestigious east slot on the “banzuke” rankings for the spring basho and the Mongolians are joint favorites here as they battle it out for yokozuna bragging rights.

Hakuho, who turns 28 on Monday, looked in trouble early on but managed to dodge a bullet and turn the tables on komusubi Aminishiki.

Osaka has been a happy hunting ground for Hakuho in recent years and he will be gunning for his fourth consecutive spring title here. A 24th Emperor’s Cup would put him fourth on the all-time list tied alongside Kitanoumi.

In other bouts in the upper echelons, Kisenosato won handsomely but Kotooshu and Kotoshogiku were made to sweat before coming through in a clean sweep for ozeki wrestlers.

Kotoshogiku got more than he bargained for in a hard-fought win over second-ranked Myogiryu and Kakuryu was quick on his feet to evade Chiyotairyu’s lunge and send him to the dirt.

Kotooshu weathered a series of blows and left top-ranked Takayasu in a crumpled heap with a “watashikomi” thigh-grabbing push down. Kisenosato showed Georgian maegashira Tochinoshin who’s boss with a routine force-out win.

Looking to make a fresh start after failing in his bid to regain his ozeki status with an 8-7 mark in January, Estonian sekiwake Baruto got off on the right foot by swinging down third-ranked maegashira Ikioi.

  • Harumafuji looked relatively fresh and pumped when he entered the dojo for his fight. In contrast, Hakuho didn’t look himself. I thought he looked tired and uninspired. His win was not a pretty one by any means, but it was a win. Think being relegated to the West was obviously playing on his mind. However, think he will do everything in his power from now on to get back to the East. When he collected his winnings after his fight there was a definite and very steely determination about him. Should be a good basho.