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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Asashoryu, Hakuho headed for showdown

OSAKA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Asashoryu showed no mercy against sekiwake Kotomitsuki to maintain his perfect record Tuesday and is headed for a showdown with fellow unbeaten Mongolian and promotion-chasing Hakuho at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Asashoryu moved behind Kotomitsui shortly after the face-off and charged like a bull with his arms wrapped around his opponent's body before sending the sekiwake (7-3) crashing onto the clay surface at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium.

Meanwhile, Hakuho held his composure and coped with the agility of upset-minded Aminishiki (6-4), claiming yet another convincing win after thwarting an initial charge from the third-ranked maegashira and shoving him out of the ring.

On Wednesday, the 21-year-old from Ulan Bator will face Asashoryu in a key bout for his bid to earn promotion to ozeki. He went 13-2 in January and is expected to earn a place in sumo's second-highest position with an equally strong showing here in Osaka.

Ozeki Tochiazuma kept alive his hopes of being considered for yokozuna promotion after dragging down fourth-ranked maegashira Dejima (5-5) to the clay following powerful shoves at the face-off.

The 29-year-old Tamanoi stable wrestler remained two wins off the joint leaders and can't afford to lose any more bouts to stand any chances of climbing up to sumo's summit after this meet.

Bulgarian giant Kotooshu (7-3) came within one win of securing a winning record with a win over fellow ozeki Kaio, who lost a thrilling exchange of throws and slipped to his sixth defeat.

Kaio now has to win four of his remaining five matches to retain his rank. His stable master had earlier indicated that the 33-year-old may retire if he fails to post a winning record this time.

Fellow relegation-threatened ozeki Chiyotaikai (7-3) muscled out lightweight Mongolian second-ranked maegashira Ama (4-6) and is now one win away from keeping his ozeki status.

In other action, Russian Roho was slapped down by top-ranked maegashira Tamanoshima for his eighth loss and will be demoted from komusubi to the maegashira ranks for the summer meet in July.

Lower in the top division, Wakanosato and Takekaze remained two wins off the pace with victories over Mongolian-born veterans.

Former ozeki candidate Wakanosato, currently wrestling as a No. 11 maegashria, toppled Kyokutenho while ninth-ranked maegashira Takekaze took down Kyokushuzan.



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