FUKUOKA – Yokozuna Hakuho beat komusubi Abi at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Friday, positioning himself just one win away from extending his record for career top-division championships to 43.
Hakuho claimed his 12th victory at Fukuoka Kokusai Center to retain a two-win buffer over his closest pursuers, new komusubi Asanoyama and No. 10 maegashira Shodai.
Asanoyama and Shodai each prevented the yokozuna from clinching on Day 13 of the 15-day meet with wins over No. 4 Kotoyuki and No. 6 Enho, respectively.
In the day’s final bout, the Mongolian-born yokozuna made quick work of Abi (7-6), who tried to leap out of Hakuho’s clutches but was pushed out with ease.
If Hakuho defeats his Day 14 opponent, sekiwake Mitakeumi, or if Asanoyama and Shodai both lose on the meet’s penultimate day, the yokozuna will secure his 43rd makuuchi crown and first since becoming a Japanese citizen in September.
In earlier action, Asanoyama (10-3) bounced back from his third loss of the meet by pushing out Kotoyuki (6-7) to even their four-bout rivalry.
The newest grappler at sumo’s fourth-highest rank got the better of his initial clash with the maegashira and stayed aggressive to keep Kotoyuki on the back foot and send him out.
Shodai (10-3) furthered his case for promotion back to the sanyaku ranks, the three elite positions below yokozuna, with a win over Enho (6-7) in their first top-level matchup.
Enho dug in low against the former sekiwake but Shodai wrapped him. After a brief deadlock, Shodai lifted the division’s lightweight clear off the ground and deposited him over the straw.
In other top-division bouts, Takakeisho improved to 9-4 after steamrolling sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-7). The Autumn meet winner had no response as the ozeki blasted him off the dohyo with an aggressive thrusting attack.
Komusubi Endo (6-7) staved off a losing record while handing one to his Day 13 opponent, No. 3 Takarafuji (5-8).
Endo pushed Takarafuji back with a high shove and kept the rank-and-filer on the defensive by grappling for an inside grip and driving him out of the ring in the process.
Hokutofuji (5-8), on the other hand, will likely forfeit his komusubi rank again after being shoved out by No. 4 Tamawashi (7-6) and falling to a losing record.
The komusubi catapulted Tamawashi to the edge, but the Mongolian caught Hokutofuji under the arm and spun him around before chasing him out of the ring.
Among the rank-and-file wrestlers, No. 8 Shohozan, No. 9 Yutakayama and No. 14 Terutsuyoshi all secured winning records — and likely promotion — on Day 13, while No. 2 Meisei and No. 7 Tsurugisho face a trip downward in the rankings after falling to 5-8.