OSAKA – The race for the Emperor’s Cup at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament will go down to the final day with undefeated yokozuna Hakuho and fourth-ranked maegashira Ichinojo both winning on Saturday.
In the penultimate day of the 15-day meet at Edion Arena Osaka, Hakuho, seeking a record-extending 42nd title, defeated ozeki Takayasu (10-4). Ichinojo, trailing Hakuho by one win, remained in the hunt for his first championship by beating rising star Takakeisho (9-5).
Needing a win to avoid falling into a tie for the lead, Hakuho built up to his match against Takayasu with a prolonged staring contest. But when the action started, it was fast and furious.
The Mongolian yokozuna seized a left-handed underarm belt hold off his charge and then let Takayasu wear himself out trying to wriggle free. The ozeki nearly pulled off a last-gasp throw at the ring’s edge, but Hakuho spoiled that plan.
After an instant of instability, Hakuho regained his balance, grounded his left foot and drove his body into Takayasu, sending him spilling over backward out of the ring.
The 25-year-old Ichinojo defeated ozeki-hopeful Takakeisho and equaled the career-best 13 wins he notched as a makuuchi debutant in September 2014. The win was Ichinojo’s third in 10 tries against the 22-year-old sekiwake.
Takakeisho lunged forward at the start, planting his right hand on the 226-kg maegashira’s throat. But Ichinojo swatted the hand away, wrapped his big right arm around Takakeisho’s neck and thrust him down to defeat.
Georgian Ozeki Tochinoshin (7-7), needing to win his final two matches to avoid relegation to sekiwake for May’s tournament, gutted out a win over November champion Tamawashi (5-9).
The win set up an intriguing winner-take-all ozeki promotion-relegation battle against Takakeisho on Sunday. Tochinoshin is 1-5 in his career against the young upstart.
In the day’s final bout, ozeki Goeido improved to 11-3 by forcing out yokozuna Kakuryu (10-4).
In a match between two of the makuuchi division’s elder statesmen having good tournaments, former ozeki Kotoshogiku wore down 37-year-old former sekiwake Yoshikaze before shoving him out.
Kotoshogiku, who turned 35 in January, cut Yoshikaze’s lip with a shoulder charge, wrapped up his opponent’s left arm and steered him to the edge. Kotoshogiku (11-3) improved to 25-7 in his career against Yoshikaze (10-4).
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