Former yokozuna and 31-time champion Chiyonofuji died Sunday in Tokyo due to pancreatic cancer, a sumo source said. He was 61.
Chiyonofuji, whose real name was Mitsugu Akimoto, was the first sumo wrestler to receive the People’s Honor Award in 1989 and ranks third in championships won behind Hakuho (37) and Taiho (32).
A lean, muscular Hokkaido native, who was nicknamed “Wolf,” Chiyonofuji was promoted to sumo’s highest rank of yokozuna after the Nagoya tournament of 1981, when he won his second championship in his third tourney as ozeki, the sport’s second-highest rank.
Chiyonofuji won 53 straight bouts — the third-longest streak since the start of the Showa Era — through the Kyushu tourney in November 1988 and in 1990 became the first wrestler to win 1,000 bouts.
He retired after the 1991 Summer Grand Sumo Tournament with 1,045 career victories, currently the second most in sumo history. In April 1992, he took over the Kokonoe stable.
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