OSAKA - Sekiwake Takakeisho started his campaign for promotion to the sport’s second-highest rank by beating Myogiryu in his opening bout at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday.
Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho and Kakuryu suffered mixed fates to begin the 15-day competition at Edion Arena Osaka as they returned to duty after withdrawing from the previous meet in January.
The 22-year-old Takakeisho, who competes at sumo’s third-highest rank, is in the spotlight as he aims for promotion to ozeki. He made quick work of No. 2 maegashira Myogiryu with a frontal push out.
Although he won the 33 bouts over the three previous tournaments that are considered a minimum for ozeki promotion, Takakeisho’s 9-6 record last September was held against him when his status was discussed. The Japan Sumo Association’s judging panel has indicated he will need at least 10 wins here to secure promotion.
Kakuryu suffered an opening-day upset against Mitakeumi, a fan-favorite komusubi. Mitakeumi chased the yokozuna across the raised ring and sent Kakuryu spinning out in the penultimate bout of the day.
Mitakeumi beat all three yokozuna who took part in January’s New Year tourney. Kisenosato, whom he defeated on the first day, later retired after two more losses.
Hakuho, aiming to extend his record for career championships with his 42nd, won by thrusting down komusubi Hokutofuji with his left hand. The 1.3-second match was the day’s second quickest.
Sekiwake Tamawashi defeated No. 3 maegashira Nishikigi as the 34-year-old aims to win back-to-back titles following his maiden victory at the New Year tournament.
Tamawashi and Nishikigi shoved each other in the chest and face after the initial clash. The Mongolian sekiwake was pushed toward the edge, but he survived the scare by remaining calm and bulldozing his opponent out of the raised ring.
The three ozeki wrestlers — Tochinoshin, Goeido and Takayasu — all opened with wins. Goeido dominated his bout against No. 1 Endo and easily defeated the popular maegashira.
Takayasu struggled to get a hold of the belt of No. 1 Kaisei, but resisted the 204-kg Brazilian’s charge at the center of the ring before overturning the former sekiwake.
Despite beating No. 2 Daieisho, Tochinoshin did not appear to be in top form following a thigh injury that forced him to withdraw from the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in January.
Fighting as a demotion-threatened “kadoban” ozeki, Tochinoshin was unable to resist the maegashira’s charge initial charge. Forced back to the edge of the ring, the Georgian only survived by thrusting down Daieisho.
Tochinoshin, whose lone championship came in January 2018, needs seven more wins to maintain his status as an ozeki at the next grand tournament in May.