Mongolian ozeki Harumafuji defeated countryman and yokozuna Hakuho in an epic final bout to win the Autumn Grand Sumo Tournament on Sunday, virtually guaranteeing himself promotion to the sport’s top rank of yokozuna.
Harumafuji has not only met the Japan Sumo Association’s yokozuna promotion standard of back-to-back championships having triumphed in Nagoya in July, but he has done it in style with another spotless 15-0 record en route to his fourth overall title.
“Right now I am full of gratitude to my ancestors and my mother and father for giving me this strength,” said the 28-year-old Harumafuji, whose real name is Davaanyam Byambadorj.
“Through fate I met a great stablemaster and more than anything I am glad I have been able to pay back all the people that have supported me.”
Hakuho appeared to have the upper hand early in the bout but failed in his attempt to kill the ozeki off with an attempted leg trip.
Harumafuji then got in low and gained control, and after the pair traded shoves, the wrestler formerly known as Ama picked his moment to put Hakuho on one leg before taking him down with a textbook shitatenage underarm throw.
“Today I squeezed out every drop of strength I have and I am glad I could respond to the expectations people had in me,” Harumafuji said. “I want to continue and wrestle in a way that moves peoples and provides them with courage and hope.”
The yokozuna deliberation council will meet Monday to discuss the promotion which is set to be rubber-stamped at a JSA board meeting on Wednesday. Harumafuji will be the first wrestler to be promoted to yokozuna since Hakuho for the 2007 Nagoya meet.
“I’ll summon the board,” said JSA chairman Kitanoumi, his comments indicating the promotion is a done deal. “He (Harumafuji) must have been under enormous pressure but he really came through it well.”
“If he gets the move up he will naturally start to carry himself differently and exude the class (of a yokozuna). I hope he sticks to what he has been doing and fulfills his responsibility.”
Hakuho, who has been the only yokozuna since Asashoryu retired in February 2010 after assaulting a man outside a Tokyo nightclub, finished at 13-2 and now has not won a title since the spring meet in March.
In an all-ozeki battle in the preceding bout, Kakuryu saw off Kisenosato with a barrage of thrusts to wrap up with an 11-4 record. Kisenosato was 10-5.
Only three of six wrestlers in the ozeki rank managed to last the distance. Kotoshogiku, Estonian giant Baruto and Bulgarian Kotooshu all pulled out midway through the meet due to injury.
In other bouts of note, sekiwake debutant Myogiryu was for the fourth time awarded the Technique Prize, one of three special awards handed out on the final day, but the sheen was taken off his achievement by fourth-ranked Aminishiki, who scored a thrust-down win to leave both men at 10-5.
Veteran 11th-ranked maegashira Kyokutenho, who pulled off a shock championship win at the summer basho in May only to bomb in Nagoya with a 3-12 mark, was overpowered by sekiwake Goeido and missed out on the Fighting Spirit Prize after finishing 10-5.
Goeido secured a majority of wins in closing at 8-7.