Sumo / Basho Reports

Hakuho strengthens bid for title

Kyodo

Hakuho will start the second week of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament with the outright lead after handing Mitakeumi his first loss on Saturday.

The yokozuna improved to a perfect 7-0 as he manhandled the No. 3 maegashira in the final bout of Day 7 at Edion Arena Osaka, where the action is taking place without spectators due to the coronavirus crisis.

Mitakeumi (6-1), who is trying to fight his way back to the three sanyaku ranks below yokozuna, drove from an inside position but could not shift the Mongolian-born great off his center of gravity.

After taking control with an outside grip, Hakuho loosened his hold to hit Mitakueumi low and hard, pushing him out backward.

Despite starting the 15-day meet in less-than-convincing fashion, the 35-year-old Hakuho appears to be rounding into form as he pursues a record-extending 44th Emperor’s Cup.

The other joint overnight leader, No. 13 Aoiyama, dropped to 6-1 following a loss to No. 11 Terutsuyoshi (4-3).

Yokozuna Kakuryu bounced back from his loss on Day 6 to Tokushoryu, the surprise winner of the previous tournament, by pushing down No. 4 Enho.

In the first career meeting between the pair, Kakuryu (5-2) rammed his smaller opponent backward and kept him at a distance before shoving him to the ground.

The 98-kg Enho (2-5) — one of the most popular wrestlers in the sport — faces an uphill battle to claim his fifth straight winning record.

Ozeki Takakeisho improved to 4-3 with an easy victory over No. 2 Tokushoryu (1-6).

The 23-year-old’s left-handed blow caught the maegashira as he shifted his weight in pursuit of a hold, knocked him off balance and thrust him to the clay.

Sekiwake Asanoyama strengthened his bid for promotion to ozeki with an impressive win over komusubi Endo (4-3).

Having opened with a powerful shoulder charge, Asanoyama withstood a driving attack from Endo before toppling the komusubi with an arm-lock throw.

The sekiwake — who can meet one of the promotion benchmarks by winning 12 bouts — took his only loss on Day 6 against Mitakeumi.

Sekiwake Shodai dropped to 3-4 after losing by frontal force-out to No. 2 Okinoumi (3-4). The maegashira had the stronger opening charge and kept his foe on the back foot with a solid inside grip.

Komusubi Hokutofuji continued his slide with a fourth straight loss, this time to No. 4 Abi.

Hokutofuji (2-5) looked set to execute a push out, but former komusubi Abi (4-3) kept his toes inside the straw while slapping his opponent down to win the battle of Saitama natives.

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