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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Asashoryu, Hakuho ready for epic encounter in tournament finale

OSAKA (Kyodo) Asashoryu rebounded from back-to-back losses to beat ozeki Kaio and set up a mouthwatering showdown with fellow Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Saturday.

News photo
Yokozuna Asashoryu forces out ozeki Kaio to improve to 12-2 on Saturday in 14th-day action of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. KYODO PHOTO

Asashoryu was all business in the day's finale as he got his right hand on Kaio's belt and picked his moment to steamroll the ozeki (8-6) out at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium.

Asashoryu will now set his sights on exacting swift revenge over Hakuho on Sunday in a rerun of their final-day battle at the New Year basho in Tokyo.

Both yokozuna have 12-2 records here after Hakuho, whose New Year win spoiled Asashoryu's comeback from a two-tournament suspension, also won handsomely by overpowering Kotomitsuki (7-7) in the preceding bout.

The yokozuna fended off a series of slaps and thrust before escaping the ozeki's clutches and blasting him over the edge.

Victories for the yokozuna pair also ended the slim title hopes held by European maegashira Kokkai and Baruto, who both put in impressive performances to score 11th wins.

Seventh-ranked Estonian Baruto dug deep into his energy reserves to lock up ozeki Chiyotaikai (8-6) and send him sliding across the sandy surface and over the straw bales.

Earlier in the day, fifth-ranked Georgian wrestler Kokkai got down low to charge Homasho (9-5), slapping the 13th-ranked maegashira down for another well-earned victory in Osaka.

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