Sumo

Sumo 101: Futabayama's win streak

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

Sumo fans these days have the privilege of being able to watch the greatest rikishi of all time live in the ring.

For a sport that’s been around for a couple of millennia in one form or another that’s no small thing.

While Raiden may have the highest win rate of all time, he was far larger and stronger than any of the opponents he faced in the late 1790s and early 1800s, and the pool of talent was much smaller than now.

Hakuho, conversely, has dominated in an era when the best rikishi are drawn from around the world, and his 12 years at the pinnacle of the sport are incredible when you remember he has to fight the top-ranked wrestlers every single tournament.

Most championships, most perfect championships, most career wins, most wins in a calendar year. Hakuho not only owns all of those records (and more), but he also has set marks that are unlikely to be challenged anytime in the foreseeable future.

There is one major record he doesn’t own, however — the consecutive win streak.

In 2010, Hakuho won 63 straight bouts from January to November, before Kisenosato ended his run six victories shy of the all-time mark.

That record is still owned by Futabayama, who, in an era when there were just two tournaments a year, went unbeaten from January 1936 to January 1939, in the process winning five straight championships and getting promoted from sekiwake to ozeki and then yokozuna.

Hakuho may have had more wins in a shorter time frame, but Futabayama went three full years without a single defeat.

It’s a feat that is even more incredible when you consider that Futabayama was blind in one eye and suffering from dysentery toward the end of his streak.

Futabayama’s run is sumo’s equivalent of Cy Young’s 511 wins in Major League Baseball — a record that is likely never to be broken.