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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hakuho downs Baruto to move into sole lead

OSAKA (Kyodo) Unbeaten yokozuna Hakuho condemned promotion-chasing sekiwake Baruto to his first defeat Wednesday to grab sole possession of the lead with four days left at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Baruto fought back bravely after being worked to the edge of the ring in the day's featured bout at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, but Hakuho proved an immovable object and showed his championship pedigree by dumping the Estonian giant into the ringside cushions.

Victory eases some of the pressure on Hakuho, who is widely expected to ease his way to a 13th Emperor's Cup in the absence of former yokozuna Asashoryu, who recently retired amid allegations he attacked a man outside a Tokyo nightspot in a drunken rampage in January.

Despite the defeat, Baruto, who sits alone in second place at 10-1, could still earn promotion to ozeki if he wins at least three of his remaining four bouts.

Tokitenku, Miyabiyama and Harumafuji are another win back at 10-2.

Ozeki Kotooshu secured a majority of wins with a routine force-out of fifth-ranked Homasho (7-4) while Kotomitsuki guaranteed his ozeki status for the next tournament with an eighth win, blasting fellow ozeki Harumafuji off the ring and into a watching Baruto's lap.

Ozeki Kaio slapped down Tamawashi to sentence the fourth-ranked grappler to a losing record while improving his own score to 6-5 in the process.

In other bouts, komusubi Aminishiki (6-5) lost his way after a promising start and crumpled in a heap on the wrong side of the straw ridge in a defeat to third-ranked Kotoshogiku (8-3), but Kisenosato (6-5) salvaged some pride for sumo's fourth rank by easily forcing out struggling Russian maegashira Aran (1-10)

No. 13 maegashira Tokitenku toppled 10th-ranked Kitataiki (7-4) with a throw from behind.

Former ozeki Miyabiyama faced little resistance from Kokkai (6-5) and wasted no time in chasing the 14th-ranked maegashira out of the dohyo.

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