Takakeisho – Ozeki Denied (For Now)

Rising star Takakeisho pressed hard during the Hatsu basho to make the case that he should be promoted to Ozeki. Among sumo fandom, a general guideline is thought to be 33 wins for consideration by the NSK for promotion. To be clear, it’s not a standard of “win 33 over 3 basho and you get promoted”; reality shows that is the minimum for consideration. [It’s not even a minimum: Kisenosato and Goeido were both famously promoted with only 32 wins, and further back in time there were promotions with even lower totals. -lksumo] On the road to his 33rd win, Takakeisho has won a yusho, a jun-yusho, and shown that he can beat Yokozuna and Ozeki. For most fans, it was almost a foregone conclusion that his bid would be approved.

But following the Hatsu basho, the NSK committee of sumo elders concluded that in spite of winning a tournament, and nearly winning a second consecutive tournament, his performance was insufficient to qualify for promotion to Ozeki at this time. They encouraged him to try harder (?) at Osaka. Part of their citation was his loss to Ozeki Goeido on day 15, where the struggling Goeido overpowered Takakeisho and quickly ejected him from the dohyo. Later we learned that in the course of this match, Takakeisho suffered a foot injury.

Takakeisho, at 22 years of age, represents the next generation of rikishi who have been pressing hard to dislodge the old guard, and take their place in sumo’s top ranks. Young, strong, lacking chronic injuries that never quite healed, the rise of both the Tadpole and Freshman cohorts is part of the natural evolution of sumo that Tachiai has been forecasting for the past two years.

But it’s quite likely that western fans felt the young fellow was robbed by the curmudgeons in the NSK, who as of late have been working in increasingly mysterious ways. I was not, however, surprised that the NSK had decided to make young Takakeisho work a bit longer before he became Ozeki. It’s clear he is on an ascendant path, and with his youth, strength and quality of sumo, he will be Ozeki no matter what if he can keep from getting hurt. It is undeniable that the drama around both Sekiwake coming from recent yusho, and both working to make a valid Ozeki bid, will bring a lot of attention to the Osaka tournament, and with the Japanese Yokozuna now retired, the NSK needs compelling stories to keep the public engaged.

24 thoughts on “Takakeisho – Ozeki Denied (For Now)

  1. Honestly, I think it was a no brainer NOT to promote him…promotions tend to come on ascension…going 11-4 in a tournament decimated by injury was a solid but not spectacular result…they were 100% right to wait another tournament…you don’t deserve promotion when getting crushed by an Ozeki fighting with one arm and losing in two seconds…he’ll get there but the NSK made the right call and, frankly, it was an easy call to make. I doubt they discussed it for very long. He will get there, I am sure of it.

      • Not surprised…the Yokozuna/Ozeki corps went 63-117 over the two tournaments he finished 1st and 2nd…I’d have been shocked if they didn’t think those results were “soft” as a result.

        • “Soft” basho are what we’ve had for most of the last two years and given the age and health of the y/o ranks we aren’t likely to see any change soon. You can only beat what they put in front of you so I hope the association will be realistic about this.

    • I’m a huge Takakeisho fan and while I don’t think I’d go so far as “no-brainer” I agree that this was the right call for the reasons you give. If he had been promoted I’d have been happy but apprehensive, especially considering how easily Goeido cleaned his clock.

    • I already posted after day 14 when the discussion started … his record against the top guys other than Tochinoshin and Kisenosato left something to be desired. I wasn’t shocked by the decision and while I don’t think they definitely had to deny the promotion this time, I think in the long run it will prove beneficial. With how soft competition is at the moment, he should be able to post another 11+ wins … and if he fails, it probably wasn’t the worst decision.

  2. Perhaps the NSK is concerned that senior rikishi will soon all figure out the key to defeating Takakeisho’s apparently one-dimensional (albeit extremely effective) sumo. It hasn’t happened yet, but they may want to see if it happens in the next basho. This concern may be why they seem to have attached so much importance to his loss to Goeido.

  3. I don’t think too much attention or importance can be paid to his injury in light of the Goeido defeat. I don’t think we should look at this of a situation like Tochinoshin’s, but the reality is that if he’s in any way in bad condition when the Haru basho opens, it would be fairly unthinkable to be back in a situation where yet another ozeki/Yokozuna is broken. I think sumo needs him not to just be an ozeki but a very good ozeki. It’s very arguable that Goeido is the most genki of the top 2 ranks at the moment – even considering his 3-6 start to Hatsu – and that should be an enormous red flag. So he not only needs to prove his consistency with a third good tournament but he also needs to prove his fitness.

      • Not saying that with regard to their decision itself, but with regard to how he looks going forward and how the decision itself isn’t the worst thing because of the situation he faces going forward, and the situation sumo faces with respect to the composition/underperformance in san’yaku.

  4. OT: I’m in Okinawa at the moment and they were showing live sumo on the tv on the ferry I was on. Looked like some kind of knockout tournament and Yoshikaze was looking pretty genki until he lost to Takayasu (he’s alternating good basho and disaster currently so that’s to be expected). Anyone have any more info on what this was? It also looked to me like Abi has bulked up a bit

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