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Monday, Nov. 26, 2012
Champion Hakuho finishes in style
FUKUOKA — With his first Emperor's Cup since March already in the bag, Hakuho put the icing on the cake Sunday with a victory over fellow Mongolian yokozuna Harumafuji at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
Hakuho, who secured his 23rd career title on Saturday, failed in his attempt to twice throw down Harumafuji after an explosive start to their bout at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
But the Miyagino stable kingpin got it right at the third time of asking, tossing down Harumafuji with a "shitatenage" underarm throw to inflict more misery on the yokozuna debutant and finish the tourney with a 14-1 record.
"These days I have been introducing myself as 'Hakuho, the guy that hasn't won the championship for a while.' Now I can say 'Hakuho, the guy that just won the title,' " said a grinning Hakuho.
"I have had injuries and couldn't win tournaments, but I have the will to win and believed this day would come," he added.
Harumafuji reached sumo's top rank having gone unbeaten over the last two tournaments, but he lost his last five bouts and finished with a mediocre 9-6 record. The five consecutive defeats were the most for a new yokozuna, while no new yokozuna had lost six bouts since Onokuni went 8-7 here in 1987.
The bout between Hakuho, the lone yokozuna since Asashoryu retired in early 2010, and Harumafuji was the first all-yokozuna clash in two years and 10 months.
"The new yokozuna has a big presence and that will once again make me stronger," said Hakuho, who is now alone in fifth place in career championships, having moving out of a tie with former yokozuna Takanohana.
Sekiwake Goeido finished second at 11-4 with No. 6 maegashira Toyonoshima.
In other bouts, Fukuoka-born Shohozan, backed by a vocal home crowd, got knocked off balance but quickly recovered to charge out Russian No. 7 maegashira Aran (8-7) and finish with double-digit wins.
Second-ranked Shohozan (10-5), who claimed three ozeki scalps here, won his first Fighting Spirit Prize, one of three prizes awarded to makuuchi-division wrestlers below the top two ranks of yokozuna and ozeki on the final day of a tournament.
The Technique Prize went to Goeido for the third time. Goeido signed off in style with a thrust-down win over Kotoshgiku, who closed with an 8-7 record, the minimum requirement to preserve his ozeki status for the next tournament in January.
Goeido beat all five ozeki here, including a win by default over Estonian bruiser Baruto, who pulled out early in the tournament and as a result will drop down a rank to sekiwake at the New Year basho.
Fifteenth-ranked Chiyotairyu was shoved out by Ikioi (9-6) but nevertheless finished with an impressive 10-5 record. Kyokutenho, who pulled off a stunning championship win at the summer meet in May was taken out by sekiwake Myogiryu (6-9) and also finished at 10-5.
Ozeki Kotooshu, who came into the tournament with his rank on the line, snapped a three-bout losing skid and tipped over fifth-ranked Toyohibiki as both men wrapped up the meet with 9-6 marks.
Kakuryu (9-6) secured ozeki bragging rights against Kisenosato (10-5) in the day's penultimate bout, prevailing in a fiercely contested affair that left him with a bloody cut on his forehead.
Harumafuji stunned the sumo world with an historically poor performance by a newly promoted yokozuna at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament that ended on Sunday. En route to his 9-6 record, Harumafuji became the first new yokozuna to lose five straight bouts.
Yet despite the shock and dismay surrounding his effort, the Mongolian remained positive.
"I did my utmost and those are the results," he said. "Regardless how hard it was, there's no going back. Tomorrow will bring a new day."
The five straight defeats were the most by any yokozuna since September 1999.
The sport had gone 15 tournaments without a pair of yokozuna in the mix, but Harumafuji altered that situation by rising to the sport's top rank on the strength of consecutive unbeaten championships in July and September. On Sunday, he lost a fast-and-furious final-day clash with countryman Hakuho, who clinched the title on Saturday and finished with a 14-1 record.
Former yokozuna Kitanoumi, the Japan Sumo Association's chairman, found the debutant's results distasteful.
"It must have been hard on Harumafuji as a new yokozuna, but at the very least you want double-digit wins," he said. "A 9-6 record is not the record of a yokozuna. I am sure he is ashamed. Hopefully, this tournament will spur him to greater efforts."