Since Takamiyama first blazed a trail to Japan in 1964, 30 other Americans have followed the giant Hawaiian into professional sumo.
Akebono and Musashimaru reached the pinnacle of the sport, earning promotion to yokozuna and lifting multiple Emperor’s Cups, while Konishiki was a title-winning ozeki whose fame arguably eclipsed that of any other foreigner in the history of the sport.
Outside of the Hawaiians though, the United States has had a limited impact in ōzumō (professional sumo).
Henry Miller, who was born in Tokyo but grew up in St. Louis, has undoubtedly had the most successful career to date of anyone from the contiguous United States.
Fighting under the ring name of Sentoryu, Miller spent 20 tournaments in the salaried ranks between 1994 and 2002.
Major injuries at key moments stymied his progress, but one of them led to a chance at revenge in a different arena seven years after his sumo career came to an end.
At a 2010 Christmas day K-1 event, Miller burst out of his corner and rained blows down on Yoichi Babaguchi, knocking the former sekiwake down three times in the first round and winning the bout in just over a minute.
Babaguchi (who fought under the ring name Wakashoyo) had sidestepped Sentoryu in a November 1994 sumo bout during the latter man’s debut in the paid divisions. Miller tore a muscle in his arm as he fell to the clay and wasn’t able to recover properly before the following tournament. He went 6-9 and spent the next four-and-a-half years in the lower divisions.
Sentoryu, which was chosen because it sounds like St. Louis, means “fighting war dragon” but it wasn’t Miller’s only impressive moniker.
His full name is Henry Armstrong Miller with the middle part given in tribute to Neil Armstrong as the future Sentoryu was born on the same day as the Apollo 11 mission blasted off on its way to putting the first humans on the moon.
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