Sumo

Sumo 101: Championship scores

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

One of the side effects of having Hakuho, the greatest rikishi of all time, succeed another legend in Asashoryu at the top of the sumo pile, is that fans in recent years have become accustomed to seeing dominant championship performances.

There have been 24 perfect 15-0 titles since Asashoryu achieved his first undefeated title in January 2004.

Prior to that, however, there was an eight-year stretch where not one single rikishi managed to lift the Emperor’s Cup with an unblemished record.

Some great wrestlers never achieved a zenshoyusho (perfect championship.)

Akebono, the first-ever foreign-born yokozuna won 11 titles but never went unbeaten. His final tournament was a 14-1 championship — a score that he recorded four times. Twice losses to rikishi with mediocre 9-6 records derailed his efforts and the fact that he never went 15-0 is something that the huge Hawaiian has said is one of his few regrets.

Goeido, conversely, has just a single title to his name and that was a perfect one.

A perfect mark of 15-0, difficult and all as it is to achieve, isn’t the rarest title-winning record. That honor belongs to the humble 11-4.

Since sumo went to a 15-day competition in May 1939, only three men have lifted the Emperor’s Cup after losing four bouts.

The first one took 33 years to happen and that was Tochiazuma, who got the sole title of his career with an 11-4 record.

The giant portrait commemorating the feat that used to hang in Ryogoku Kokugikan is now the first thing people see when they open the door of Tamanoi stable.

Musashimaru in 1996 and Harumafuji in 2017 are the only other men with 11-4 championships.

Given the way results have gone in the current tournament so far, we might be about to see a fourth.

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