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Friday, July 25, 2008

Hakuho closes in on seventh career title

NAGOYA (Kyodo) Hakuho put one hand on the Emperor's Cup after dodging a bullet to overpower ozeki Chiyotaikai at the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament on Thursday.

News photo
Powerful push: Ozeki Kotomitsuki (left) drives fourth-ranked maegashira Goeido out of the ring on the 12th day of the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on Thursday. Kotomitsuki is 9-3. KYODO PHOTO

The Mongolian yokozuna improved his record to 12-0 and can claim his seventh career title if he beats veteran ozeki Kaio at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium on Friday.

Hakuho was put on the back foot at the charge in the day's finale as Chiyotaikai tried to throttle him with a throat grip.

But the yokozuna dug himself out of a hole to force his opponent out and stay three wins clear of Kotomitsuki and rank-and-filer Toyohibiki. Chiyotaikai dropped to 8-4.

Hakuho has been in unstoppable form here although his championship bid has benefited from the withdrawal last Friday of rival Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu, who pulled out with an elbow injury.

Victory on Friday would land Hakuho his first title since he beat Asashoryu on the final day of the New Year meet.

In other bouts of note, Aichi native Kotomitsuki treated his home fans to an impressive performance, getting both arms around Goeido (6-6) and muscling out the fourth-ranked maegashira for a ninth win.

No. 13 maegashira Toyohibiki (9-3) also kept his slim title hopes alive by blasting out 12th-ranked Kimurayama, who dropped to 6-6.

Ozeki Kaio (8-4) celebrated his 36th birthday by sending former sekiwake Wakanosato (5-7) out from behind but there was more disappointment for Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu, who was sent tumbling out of the ring by Mongolian sekiwake Ama, leaving both men with 8-4 marks.

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