Mongolian yokozuna Hakuho put on a show for Beatles legend Paul McCartney on Thursday, preserving his share of the lead with a clinical win on the fifth day of action at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
With McCartney, playing nearby Yafuoku Dome as part of his Japan tour on Friday, watching from the “masu-seki” boxed seats at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, Hakuho kept Toyoshima 2-3 at arm’s length after the charge and then picked his moment to haul the No. 2 maegashira down by the back of his neck.
McCartney, watching his first live basho in 20 years, having also attended the 1993 Fukuoka meet, nearly stole the show after the last bout as he posed for photographs and shook hands with spectators as chants of “Paul, Paul” rang around the arena.
Hakuho shares the lead with fellow yokozuna Harumafuji and rank-and-filers Masunoyama and Shotenro at 5-0.
Japan was mourning on Sunday after the death of former sumo grand champion Taiho, who won a record 32 tournaments and became a hugely popular figure in the 1960s when the sport was untainted by the damaging scandals seen more recently.
Taiho, whose real name was Koki Naya, died of heart failure in hospital in Tokyo on Saturday, the Japan Sumo Association said. He was 72.
His death was front-page news in Japan, with the Nikkan Sports daily calling him “the strongest yokozuna (sumo grand champion) in history”.
“He was sumo history,” former yokozuna Chiyonofuji, whose 31 championships are second on the all-time list, told Kyodo news agency. “That one additional title he won, that was something beyond my reach. It is a measure of his greatness.”
The 2012 Aki Basho will forever be remembered as the tournament at which ozeki Harumafuji, winner of the previous Nagoya Basho with a perfect 15-0 record, mirrored his performance in July and guaranteed his promotion to the rank of yokozuna.
He will be the 70th individual in the 255 years since the sport’s first official ranking sheet was released to hold the title, and will now compete with his predecessor Hakuho to be ranked on the more prestigious eastern side of the banzuke.
In what was perhaps one of the most dominant displays of sumo by an ozeki since the ascent of Hakuho five years ago, or perhaps Takanohana back in 1994, the 28-year-old Mongolian has certainly earned his place atop the roughly 650 men now in sumo, but questions must be asked about how long he will stay there.
Undefeated yokozuna Hakuho captured his 21st career Emperor’s Cup with room to spare Friday, dispensing with Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu in a convincing display of strength on the 13th day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
The lone Mongolian yokozuna secured his second consecutive title with two days remaining at the 15-day meet — the closest rivals in the title race trailing in Hakuho’s wake by a gulf of three defeats while the grand champion improved to an unblemished 13-0 mark.
Sumo elder Naruto, the former yokozuna Takanosato, died of respiratory failure at a hospital in the city of Fukuoka on Monday morning, the Japan Sumo Association said. He was 59.
He was admitted to the hospital Sunday night after complaining of ill health and was treated for asthma, the hospital said.
Naruto recently had been under investigation by the association over a magazine report that said he once beat a former apprentice with a block of wood and injected Czech-born wrestler Takanoyama with insulin in a bid to up his body weight.
Battle-worn ozeki Kaio, the all-time career wins leader, will retire from sumo, drawing the curtain on an illustrious but injury-plagued career, his stablemaster Tomozuna said Tuesday.
The hugely popular Kaio, who suffered his seventh defeat the same day at the ongoing Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, would have needed to win his remaining five bouts at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium to avoid facing demotion at the autumn basho in September.
"He told me that he wants to retire. He has really done the best he can, that’s all," said Tomozuna. "I told him, ‘You’ve really done your utmost and anytime that you want to retire it’s fine with me.’ He will talk in detail at a press conference tomorrow."
Japanese police for the first time ever Tuesday sought criminal prosecutions of nine sumo wrestlers and sports figures in a damaging scandal over illegal gambling and yakuza mob ties.The ancient and highly ritualistic national sport is already under the spotlight after news of illegal drug use, brutal training methods and in recent weeks claims of bout-rigging.Police handed files to prosecutors outlining claims that five active wrestlers, three patrons or financial supporters, and one member of a crime syndicate were involved in gambling on baseball games, the Sankei daily said.Betting in Japan is allowed only on horse racing and some motor sports.Prosecutors must now decide whether to indict and try the nine, who were not named by police or in Japanese media reports.It is the first time in the history of sumo — a sport which dates back some 1,500 years — that Japanese police handed over a case to prosecutors against serving sumo wrestlers, local media said.
The ancient sport of sumo wrestling was today bracing itself for a fresh assault on its reputation, after police said they had found evidence of match-fixing on several wrestlers’ mobile phones.
Japanese media reports said the text messages showed the wrestlers had gone as far as agreeing which winning moves would be used during bouts, and how the losing opponent should fall.
The messages were found on phones belonging to wrestlers in sumo’s second division, the Kyodo news agency said. The phones had been confiscated during an investigation into allegations of illegal gambling involving scores of wrestlers that surfaced last year.
They suggested that match-fixing was common in the 2,000-year-old sport, with hundreds of thousands of yen resting on the outcome of a single bout.
The Japan sumo association summoned one elder and nine wrestlers, including three from the top division, to an emergency meeting to discuss the allegations.
"We are examining the situation," the association’s chairman, Hanaregoma, said.
Reports suggested the police would not take action against the wrestlers, as match-fixing is not illegal and there was no evidence that anyone had bet on the predetermined bouts.
Hakuho captured his fifth consecutive title on Sunday, defeating rank-and-filer Toyonoshima in a playoff on the final day of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.
The Mongolian grand champion, who rebounded from the devastation of failing to tie yokozuna great Futabayama’s all-time wins streak of 69 bouts, was cooler than ice in his final match of the year after both wrestlers ended regulation with 14-1 records at Fukuoka Kokusai Center.
The victory was Hakuho’s career 17th, the yokozuna overcoming the psychological bump of losing to Kisenosato on the second day of the 15-day meet, which snapped his winning run at 63 bouts.
His career-best fifth straight title is third in the record books behind former yokozuna wrestlers Asashoryu and Taiho, who had seven and six, respectively.
Hakuho took the charge from Toyonoshima, a former sekiwake who is currently a No. 9 maegashira, and calmly shoved his opponent down from the rear after deftly maneuvering around him.
‘‘This year there was a lot that happened, so I really wanted to finish off strong,’’ said Hakuho, who is second on the all-time list for consecutive wins. ‘‘I am really tired. I wasn’t able to break Futabyama’s record but I believe I did repay some of my debt of gratitude,’’ he said.