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More than a few cliffhangers emerged from the November basho, so the upcoming New Year grand sumo tournament should be interesting, to say the least.

For starters, all eyes will be on yokozuna Hakuho and Kakuryu, who have been conspicuously absent from recent sumo tournaments due to injuries. Of the six most recent tournaments, Hakuho has only competed sufficiently in three; Kakuryu completed just one meet in the same span. Last month, the yokozuna’s council delivered a stern warning. If they are no-shows again, they might be stripped of their grand champion status, or worse.

It will also be exciting to watch the progress — or grand fail — of ozeki Takakeisho, the sumo wrestler most likely to become the next sport’s next grand champion. If he wins his promotion, the burly Hyogo Prefecture native will become the shortest grand champion since Tamanishiki retired in 1938, writes John Gunning. Elsewhere, will Terunofuji defy the odds and regain his former glory? And what about Hokuseiho, a rising star who became a rikishi as a result of a chance meeting with the yokozuna in an airport when he was a small child. He has won 23 straight bouts since his debut and is eyeing the record for the best-ever start to a sumo career.

One side note: If Takakesho wins the white rope in January, he will be bringing honor to the Tokiwayama stable, a “new” stable that was recently resurrected, thus bringing an end to the short-lived Chiganoura stable. Yeah, it’s complicated. You probably should just get the full story from Gunning.

In the meantime, sumo fans who needed their between-basho fix got it at the All Japan Sumo Championships held this past weekend. Indeed, if you really want to see the shape of things to come, this is the place to be. With the collegiate-to-pro route becoming more established for foreign rikishi as well, amateur sumo in this country is increasingly drawing the interest of fans hoping to spot the stars of the future, writes Gunning. Oh, and in case you were interested, 19-year-old Hidetora Hanada became the first student from Nippon Sports Science University (NSSU) to be crowned amateur yokozuna since 2002.

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