Friday, Dec. 21, 2007
After a two-tournament ban, Mongolian grand champion Asashoryu makes his return to the raised ring on the lesser-regarded west side as the Japan Sumo Association released the rankings Thursday for the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament. The 27-year-old Asashoryu, who was punished for missing a regional summer tour after apparently feigning the extent of his injuries, will have held sumo's top rank for exactly five years — ninth on the all-time list in his 30th basho as a yokozuna. Compatriot yokozuna Hakuho, meanwhile, will be gunning for his first three-peat after winning the autumn and Kyushu titles and sits in the prestigious east slot for the Jan. 13-27 meet at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan. Hakuho's 12-3 performance in November, however, was not a reassurance of things to come and Asashoryu will be salivating at the bit to expose any weakness from his rival.