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Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011

Hakuho stands alone atop the leaderboard


FUKUOKA — Hakuho took one giant step toward his career 21st title as he took the sole lead in a demolition of Kakuryu while ozeki debutant Kotoshogiku was sent crashing back to earth by ozeki rival Baruto, suffering his first defeat at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday.

News photo
In control: Kotoshogiku (right) defeats Kyokutenho at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament on Tuesday in Fukuoka. KYODO

In the day's final bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, Hakuho never gave the sekiwake a chance as he swiftly got a hand under his opponent's armpit and sent him packing over the edge in a matter of seconds for a perfect 10-0 mark.

Kakuryu lost his 20th straight to the yokozuna and slipped to a 6-4 record at the 15-day meet. Hakuho leads with five days remaining, with Kotoshogiku one behind at 9-1 and ozeki hopeful Kisenosato and rank-and-filer Wakakoyu at two defeats in a share of third.

Hakuho faces possibly his biggest test yet on Wednesday against yokozuna killer Kisenosato, who defeated him at the Autumn Basho in September before Hakuho went on to win the title.

And the yokozuna might still be having flashbacks of his stunning loss to the Kisenosato at last year's Kyushu Basho, which ended his winning streak at 63 bouts.

Kotoshogiku, who is fighting at sumo's second-highest rank for the first time in front of his hometown crowd, immediately found himself in trouble when the Estonian goliath got a firm grip on his mawashi with his right hand at the face-off.

Kotoshogiku could do nothing to penetrate the bigger man's barrier and was sent backpedaling over the edge in a comprehensive defeat as Baruto picked up his seventh win.

Bulgarian Kotooshu, who is facing demotion after pulling out of the September meet, moved within one of saving his ozeki rank with a textbook frontal force out of Tochinowaka (5-5).

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