Aki Story 2 – A Yokozuna Show Down?

A lot of what might happen during Aki hinges on tomorrow’s banzuke, but we know for certain that this September might turn into a head to head battle between Yokozuna Kakuryu, and Yokozuna Hakuho. Both men are looking to score another yusho, but much to the surprised and delight of many, Kakuryu seems to finally be coming into his own.

In the heat of Nagoya, it was clear from the start that the two Yokozuna would be setting the pace, with both men unbeaten after day 8. But a surprise loss by Hakuho to the Mongolian boulder, Ichinojo, resulted in the dai-Yokozuna being a loss behind the seemingly teflon-coated Kakuryu. With the decimation in the Ozeki ranks, the roster of rikishi to fight the Yokozuna dipped lower and lower down the banzuke. On day 13, Kakuryru drew a bout against an up and coming Maegashira from Oguruma heya: Tomokaze.

From the video, you can see that Kakuryu underestimated young Tomokaze, and got a face full of clay. This briefly brought the two Yokozuna to 1 loss apiece. But Hakuho lost his final 2 matches, and Kakuryu took the emperor’s cup with a respectable 14-1 record, including a win over Hakuho.

To my mind, I see Aki as a re-match. It seems that Hakuho has been able to put the mechanical injuries he struggled with in Nagoya behind him, and may be in better fighting form. We know that Hakuho seeks to remain active and competing in sumo until at least the Tokyo 2020 Olympics next summer, and is currently working to secure Japanese citizenship. He is also an arch-competitor, and is always in it to win it.

Kakuryu was an annoying excuse of a Yokozuna for quite some time, and many sumo fans (at times myself included) thought he might best step aside as he was not fighting at a Yokozuna level. It has been a pleasant surprise to see him reforge his body, and return to top form. His reactive style of sumo focuses on stalemating his opponent until they make a mistake, and then exploiting that mistake for a win.

Having both Yokozuna genki and competing will add to the misery of the struggling Ozeki corps, and their matches against Hakuho and Kakuryu may be the deciding difference in at least one of their careers.

Head to head this September, I would give an edge to Hakuho. His pride and his ego will drive him to take one away from his country man, Kakuryu. But Hakuho has shown himself to be surprisingly fragile, so fans should be ready for him to go kyujo to protect his near-term future.

14 thoughts on “Aki Story 2 – A Yokozuna Show Down?

  1. Kakuryu is the winner of the last basho and all you could post for him was his only loss, then you call him an annoying excuse for a Yokozuna even though he has more basho than all the active current and former Ozeki combined. Give the guy a break, he is a great Yokozuna.

      • I just meant great, not Dai “Great” Yokozuna, which btw is not an actual thing. It’s something that is mostly agreed on by fans and commentators. You need 20 yusho for an elder stock to be made with your name, which means the association view it as the real Yokozuna achievement worthy of reward.

        • There really isn’t any set criteria for ichidai toshiyori. While it’s true all current offers were made to those with at least 20 yusho, a case could be made for a college grad who goes straight to Yokozuna, wins 19 yusho in around 5-6 years (at least half of those available), and then suffers a career-ending injury, would at least be considered, especially if he won 12-14 in those basho he didn’t get the Yusho.

          Similarly, there are rumors that the Kyokai are not going to offer it to Hakuho, for any number of reasons. They might secretly not want to give it to foreigners, and claim that the current sentiment is that they shouldn’t be offered at all, only to change their mind in 15 years when a deserving Japanese candidate retires, justifiably attributed to another change in sentiment due to oyakata turnover. Much like with Ozeki and Yokozuna promotions, the oyakata that make up the Kyokai will do whatever they want, and fans may argue, but it’s ultimately up to them.

      • The way I see it, a Yokozuna who manages to meet the promotion requirements again as Yokozuna has something to be proud of. So Kakuryu has over the past few years made up for his slow start as Yokozuna, and cannot be seen as a failure by any means, even if a lot of people will remember him for his 9-6 on his debut tournament and then only scoring 2 more yusho the next 3 years before bombing two tournaments in a row then taking two more off and needing to come back strong to not retire. His two consecutive yusho soon after that proved that his back-to-back 14 win tournaments for the rope weren’t entirely a fluke, and his promotion definitely deserved.

        Now, to be “great”, even if not Hakuho and Asashoryu great, I would expect that a Yokozuna would meet the promotion requirements very regularly, at least every other year. So Kakuryu is far from “great” in my mind, even if he’s now clearly in the upper half of all those who ever held the rank. He’s a great rikishi, and deserves to be Yokozuna. But a great Yokozuna? Not really. “Good” and “above average” I think are about the right terms if you’re comparing him to other Yokozuna. Nevertheless, if he wins Aki, or even get 13 wins, and then goes on to another Yusho+13 win streak in 2020, then we can talk about him being “great”, even if it’s partially a lack of strong competition now with Harumafuji and Kisenosato gone and Kotoshogiku a shadow of his former self along with no one stepping up to really replace them.

    • Ease up a bit, that is not what the post is about. No one is saying that Kakuryu is not great, he just struggled for years (and before as well) to be on Hakuho’s level (as did everyone else). He is getting better, more consistent. He should also be not be measured relative to ozekis, as he is a yokozuna. He deserves to be measures against other yokozuna. He is a great yokozuna and certainly stepped up his game to fill the void that Harumafuji left. I hope we get a few more good tournaments where Hakuho and Kakuryu can go neck and neck and decide things on sensuraku like last time.

    • Hey Bolt, I am going to guess you are new to the site, and have not been reading my commentary on Kakuryu. Once he started to get his body healed up, there has been quite a bit of discussion on how unique his style of sumo is, and how valuable it is to the lower ranks to fight against him.

      Thanks for taking the time to visit and read the site, and to comment on the post.

  2. In late 2017 Kakuryu looked to be on his way out. Even his oyakata said “If he can’t win next time he steps on the dohyo, there will be no option to pull out midway. He would have to take the decision (to retire from the sport) as a man”. The way he has come back from that to win 3 more yusho has been quietly inspirational. Of course he’s carrying injuries but as we saw in Nagoya, 90% of Kakuryu, beats 70% of Hakuho.

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