Yokozuna Hakuho won his 33rd career championship on Friday with two days to spare at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, surpassing the record of 32 titles he shared with sumo legend Taiho.
The 29-year-old Hakuho entered the day with a perfect 12-0 record and a two-win cushion over ozeki Kisenosato and yokozuna Harumafuji. Harumafuji fell in the day’s penultimate bout with rival yokozuna Kakuryu, while Hakuho defeated Kisenosato in the finale to wrap up his fifth straight championship.
The 32 titles amassed by Taiho, long considered the greatest sumo wrestler in the post-war period, stood the test of time from 1971 until last November, when Hakuho pulled alongside.
Before a packed house at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan that was tense with anticipation, Hakuho and Kisenosato gave the audience an encore after their first attempt was ruled a draw.
“The 33rd championship came through a do-over, so it wasn’t easy,” Hakuho said. “It was good sumo so I think it was worth seeing.”
As champion, Hakuho will speak after Sunday’s final day of action, but said he will need the time between now and then to reflect on his achievement.
“There are still two days of bouts left. Until the final day comes I don’t know. I want to think it over carefully.”
Compared with the first effort, the rematch was a calm affair in which the yokozuna awaited his opponent’s charge before wrestling him out after a brief struggle. Kisenosato put up a fight but was no match for the Mongolian master when his eye was on the historic mark and was shoved out.
It was a study in contrast from the yokozuna’s first attempt to rewrite the record book.
The first time, Hakuho thundered Kisenosato out of the ring with a fearsome purpose. But the same energy that swept Kisenosato out, carried the yokozuna along with him, and the ringside judges ordered a rematch. Hakuho improved to 38-11 in his career against the ozeki.
“Nobody can touch Hakuho, so it’s only natural that he win by a good margin,” said Japan Sumo Association chairman Kitanoumi.
“Hakuho is not a yokozuna who is at the end of the road. I’d like to see him go for 40 titles. If he keeps going the way he is, that’s a possibility.”
In the day’s penultimate bout, Kakuryu defeated Harumafuji in a clash of Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji came out with a lightning-quick charge that Kakuryu barely dodged after the two butted heads on the tachiai.
Kakuryu countered once and took the battle back to the middle of the ring, but Harumafuji nearly drove him out again. Harumafuji’s haste, however, proved his undoing, as Kakuryu was able to throw his countryman, leaving both with identical 10-3 records and opening the door for Hakuho’s clinching victory.
Ozeki Goeido collected his sixth win to avoid being relegated to the sekiwake ranks with a quick win over Endo (4-9). Goeido entered with a two-match losing streak that left him just one loss from demotion when he came up against the popular young maegashira.
The two got their arms tangled up on the tachiai. When Endo shoved off, Goeido swatted the maegashira off balance. With his opponent teetering at mid-ring, Goeido had little trouble driving him from the ring. His opponent Saturday is Bulgarian behemoth Aoiyama.
The sekiwake was hustled out of the ring in short order to his eighth defeat, losing at the hands of No. 4 maegashira Toyonoshima.
Ozeki Kotoshogiku, who lost the day before to Hakuho, took control of the tachiai against Aminishiki. The No. 3 maegashira dug in his heels but was forced out to his eighth loss in a display of power by the smaller ozeki, who improved to 9-4 for the tournament and 28-18 in his career against Aminishiki.
Egyptian Osunaarashi moved to within one victory of clinching a winning record, shoving out fellow maegashira Sokokurai (4-9) to collect his seventh win. Brazilian-born Kaisei was handed his makekoshi eighth loss in a defeat to fellow maegashira Tokitenku, who improved to 9-4.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5