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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Baruto's title chase hits bump


OSAKA — Estonia-born ozeki Baruto saw his bid for yokozuna promotion take a hit Wednesday as he was sent to a shock first defeat at the hands of Mongolian sekiwake Kakuryu on the fourth day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Baruto's slapdash sumo style reared its ugly head in his first real test of the 15-day meet, when he was toppled onto his back by rival Kakuryu, who improved to a 4-0 mark to share the lead with lone yokozuna Hakuho, ozeki Harumafuji and rank-and-filer Takayasu.

In the day's premier bout at Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Baruto and Kakuryu fought to a standstill as they tussled for leverage and the ozeki tried spinning his opponent around violently to reposition himself, only for Kakuryu to deploy a leg trip near the edge for the victory.

"I am happy that I went on the offense," said Kakuryu, who is hoping to make a run at ozeki with a strong showing at the Osaka meet. "I want to continue fighting in my style for the rest of the tournament."

Baruto won the New Year meet with an impressive 14-1 mark, but it is now anyone's guess how his defeat will affect him as he tries to secure promotion — needing to at least remain in the title race over the two weeks of competition.

Hakuho, who is gunning for his 22nd career title, was never fooled for a second by winless Tokitenku, who dodged to the side at the face-off before the yokozuna tossed him from the ring with a beltless arm throw.

Ozeki Kisenosato picked up his second consecutive victory after losses on the first two days, absorbing a fierce assault by winless Georgian Gagamaru before putting his opponent on the back leg with a salvo of strikes.

Ozeki Harumafuji pulled off another win for sumo's second-highest rank, throttling Tochinowaka (1-3) with a throat grab before upending his opponent with a series of shoves to also remain among the unbeaten.

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