Sumo | Rikishi Files

Muscular Chiyonofuji's career bloomed late

by John Gunning

Contributing Writer

For a certain generation of fans there is only one name that comes to mind when discussing the greatest of all time and that name is Chiyonofuji.

The muscular yokozuna dominated inside the ring and won hearts outside it during the 1980s.

Known as “the Wolf,” the undersized Chiyonofuji possessed a lethal combination of technique and fighting spirit.

His atypical physique brought many new fans into the sport, and the muscular Hokkaido native became something of a sex symbol.

Incredibly, in a sport that normally sees a steep decline after the age of 30, Chiyonofuji had his greatest success in his fourth decade, winning 19 of his 31 titles in his thirties.

Constant shoulder dislocations stymied his progress early in his career, but Chiyonofuji remained a handsome and popular young wrestler whose win over veteran ozeki Takanohana — a man who had been known as the “Prince of the Ring” — was the first sign of a changing of the guard and led to the latter’s retirement soon afterwards.

In a twist of fate, Takanohana’s teenage son defeated Chiyonofuji a decade later, signaling the end for the great yokozuna, and he too rode off into the sunset a few days later.

Chiyonofuji also holds the distinction of being the only man ever to decline the high honor of being awarded one-generation elder stock under his ring name.

The Sumo Association bestows such a distinction on the greatest of the great. But rather than open a stable under his own name, Chiyonofuji eventually took over Kokonoe stable.

Despite holding many positions in the JSA, Chiyonofuji never earned the top job.

Stablemate Hokutoumi, whose own multiple championship-winning yokozuna career was overshadowed by Chiyonofuji while they were active, surpassed his senior post-retirement and has been JSA Chairman since 2015.