Sumo has been around in various forms for over 2,000 years.
Even what we can call the modern form of the sport has existed since the 1600s.
It’s hardly surprising when dealing with a timeframe of centuries or millennia that the number of all-time-great rikishi is in the dozens.
Seventy-two men have held the rank of yokozuna, but there are many more that have been the equal of better than those on that list.
The argument about the greatest of all time however probably comes down to three or four men.
Raiden, an ozeki active in the late 1700s and early 1800s, had the best winning percentage of all time. But he was a giant among men, being a full 10-to-20 cm taller and 30-to-70 kg heavier than most of the opponents he faced.
Taiho, Tanikaze and Futabayama are the other obvious candidates, but what Hakuho has done over the past couple of decades puts him in a different class.
The consecutive win streak is the only major record of note that the Ulaanbaatar native doesn’t own and even with that he is second all time.
Most Emperor’s Cups, most undefeated championships, most career wins, most top division wins, most consecutive championships, most wins in a calendar year.
You could fill an entire column just listing his achievements.
Hakuho has set marks that equal or double the combined records of rikishi considered legends in their own right, and he has done so in overwhelming fashion, not relying on one technique or physical trait.
The yokozuna has even changed his style at various points throughout his career showing that he can not only win, but dominate, no matter what kind of sumo the bout becomes.
Hakuho deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Pele or Jack Nicklaus.
It’s an overused term these days but when it comes to sumo he is undoubtedly the G.O.A.T.