• Kyodo

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Fighting fit and ready to rumble, newly promoted ozeki Takayasu takes center stage when the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament gets underway on Sunday.

Takayasu took a hammering by yokozuna Kisenosato earlier in the week during practice bouts, but the ozeki insists he is in top shape ahead of his opening match against second-ranked maegashira Hokutofuji.

Takayasu, the first new ozeki since Mongolian Terunofuji was promoted for the Nagoya meet in 2015, lost all 10 of his bouts against Tagonoura stablemate Kisenosato on Wednesday.

“The yokozuna (Kisenosato) delivered some hard hits and I could not shove into him,” said Takayasu. “But I am in good condition. I want to keep increasing my strength both physically and mentally.”

Asked about his mind-set ahead of the tournament, Takayasu said, “I’m feeling relaxed.”

Takayasu, who went 11-4 at the summer meet in May, and Hokutofuji face off for the first time at a grand tournament.

Hokutofuji also had an impressive showing (10-5) in May.

“He will be a challenging opponent,” Takayasu said. “I want to relax my shoulders and deliver a commanding performance.”

Takayasu’s promotion to sumo’s second-highest rank last month completed a respectable banzuke for the Nagoya Basho, with four yokozuna and three ozeki set to face off for the first time since the spring meet in 2000.

His promotion comes six months after his Tagonoura stablemate Kisenosato reached the sport’s highest rank of yokozuna.

Whether Kisenosato, who pulled out of the last tourney through injury, will make a serious run at the title remains to be seen, with the yokozuna only having confirmed his participation at the Nagoya meet on Thursday.

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