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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Asa beats Hakuho, sets up dramatic last day in Osaka

OSAKA (Kyodo) Grand champion Asashoryu gunned down ozeki Hakuho in an all-Mongolian battle on Saturday to ensure a dramatic climax to the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu pulls down Mongolian compatriot Hakuho to tie for the tournament lead on the 14th day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium on Saturday. KYODO PHOTO

Asashoryu claimed his 12th win of the tourney after dodging an early bullet at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium and in doing so set up a potential championship playoff with Hakuho on the last day of the 15-day meet.

Asashoryu looked in all sorts of trouble after getting rammed toward the edge of the ring but the yokozuna escaped Hakuho's clutches sent him sprawling to the floor to keep his hopes of a 21st title alive.

Both men are tied for the lead at 12-2 and could square off in a repeat of the championship decider Asashoryu won at last year's spring basho if they both win their final bouts on Sunday.

Asashoryu takes on ozeki Chiyotaikai while Hakuho meets Bulgarian bruiser Kotooshu.

Hakuho's only previous title came at the 2006 summer meet Asashoryu withdrew from early on because of an elbow injury.

Hakuho won that tournament by beating Miyabiyama in a playoff.

Elsewhere, Kotooshu geared up for his appointment with Hakuho by tearing down Chiyotaikai (7-7) to secure a majority of wins and leave his ozeki teammate needing to beat Asashoryu to avoid a losing record.

Kaio survived another day after the injury-weary ozeki floored Takekaze (6-8).

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