Two-man title chase continues


Harumafuji knocked the daylights out of Kisenosato while fellow yokozuna Hakuho ran roughshod over sekiwake Goeido as the undefeated pair remained in a two-way tie for the lead at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Wednesday.

Harumafuji and Hakuho lead with 11-0 marks while promotion-chasing Kakuryu improved to 10-1 to remain one behind the two head honchos with four days remaining at the Kansai meet.

It was the sixth sold-out crowd in Osaka, and Harumafuji did not disappoint with a volcanic-style eruption in the penultimate bout at Bodymaker Colosseum.

Harumafuji, who had missed the entire New Year Basho through injury, had lost his previous five matches against Kisenosato, despite holding a 26-20 advantage against his rival ahead of Wednesday’s match.

But this time he walloped Kisenosato (8-3) with a battery of slaps to the face that had the ozeki seeing stars before the yokozuna sent his opponent sprawling with a “hatakikomi” smackdown.

In the day’s finale, Hakuho latched onto Goeido’s right arm right after the face-off and immediately sent the sekiwake (8-3) on his way with a quick “oshidashi” shove out as the partisan crowd let out a collective groan for their losing Osaka native.

Kakuryu appeared to hit a snag when ringside judges went to a video replay to confirm if he had stepped out of the ring after smacking down Tochiozan (5-6), but replays clearly showed his left foot on top of the straw bales.

The Mongolian ozeki will likely need to win this tournament with at least 13 wins for any real consideration at promotion to sumo’s top rank.

Injury-hit ozeki Kotoshogiku (6-5) snapped a four-day losing streak by bulldozing out Yoshikaze (7-4).

No. 1 maegashira Endo (5-6), who faced both yokozuna and three ozeki in his first five bouts, snapped a two-day skid with an “oshidashi” thrashing of Toyonoshima (4-7), beating the komusubi in their first matchup.

Harumafuji will meet Kakuryu while Hakuho goes up against his longtime nemesis Kisenosato on Thursday.