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Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

Hakuho suffers first loss; Asa grabs sole lead

Kyodo News

Title favorite Hakuho crashed to his first defeat to hand fellow Mongolian yokozuna Asashoryu sole possession of the lead heading into the home stretch at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.

News photo
Upset: Harumafuji forces out yokozuna Hakuho to hand him his first loss at the New Year Grand Sumo on Tuesday. KYODO PHOTO

Asashoryu (10-0) watched Hakuho's fireworks extinguished by struggling ozeki Harumafuji and took full advantage in the day's final bout by battering Kotomitsuki to boost his title hopes on his comeback from injury at the 15-day meet at Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Kotomitsuki (2-8) got control of Asashoryu's belt but the yokozuna oozed class as he countered and bumped the ozeki over the ridge to stay perfect and inflict another loss on his opponent in the process.

Asashoryu's win could come at a price though after he left the ring clutching at his heavily bandaged left elbow.

In the preceding bout, Hakuho looked in trouble from the start and Harumafuji charged in low to get a firm grip on the back of the yokozuna's belt before shoving him out to gain a measure of revenge for defeat at the Kyushu meet in November.

Harumafuji (4-6) sparkled in Kyushu, where he enjoyed a 13-2 record before narrowly missing out on the title after a championship playoff defeat to Hakuho.

The wrestler formerly known as Ama has struggled to find consistency here and securing a winning record has become his main objective in his ozeki debut.

No. 12 maegashira Tochiozan returned to winning ways by railroading Kakuryu to stay in the title hunt at 9-1, but Bulgarian Kotooshu's championship hopes suffered a blow after he was manhandled by fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai (7-3) and dropped to 8-2.

Baruto was handed an unexpected defeat against third-ranked maegashira Goeido, who sent the Estonian sekiwake packing to leave both men with 7-3 records.

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