Hello sumo fans and Tachiai readers, it’s time to start our daily coverage of the Haru basho. We learned yesterday that the lone Yokozuna, Terunofuji, will continue to sit out and work to recover from his knee surgery last year. In addition, he is enduring a flair up in diabetes, and was not quite in condition to compete. This makes it somewhat easier for Takakeisho to try for the rope himself. There is no official word on what it would take, but we should just assume a strong 14 or 15 win yusho without any crummy sumo should seal the deal.
Readers of the blog probably recall that I thought Asanoyama should have made it to the bottom of Makunouchi for March, but I guess instead we get to see him in the first match on the opening day, as we will have daily Juryo visitors to close the banzuke gap left by Terunofuji being absent. I still strongly suspect Asanoyama will be the next rikishi to be promoted to Ozeki. If they will give it to him once he’s turned in an appropriate score is another matter.
What We Are Watching Day 1
Mitoryu vs Asanoyama – Possibly the highest interest match of the day, and they are putting it first. These two have never fought before, and I fully expect that Asanoyama is going to give Mitoryu a quick, brutal trip off the clay. Mostly because even last month, Asanoyama was looking like an Ozeki fighting in Juryo. Mitoryu had a lackluster 7-8 finish in January.
Chiyoshoma vs Tsurugisho – Both of these guys were make-koshi last tournament, Chiyoshoma was an abysmal 5-10, and his posting to Maegashira 16e may be a final chance to remain in the top division until July. Only slightly better was Tsurugisho at 7-8, who landed at Maegashira 16w. Both are talented, skilled fighters, but are feeling the effects of injuries that never quite heal, and have to find a way to still win matches.
Hokuseiho vs Oho – Well, this one might be more interesting that the Asanoyama match. Miyagino oyakata (The artist formerly known as Hakuho) has unleashed his Hokkaido giant on the top division, and it’s time to see what he does to the prior young hope, Oho. This is Hokuseiho’s 18th career basho, and he took 3 of them off due to injuries. I think Oho will be lucky to have any bones left after today.
Kinbozan vs Bushozan – Time for two former Juryo men to make their top division debut. Quite a contrast comparing rapid rising star Kinbozan, who hails from Kazakhstan, against Bushozan who has scrapped his way to the top through guts, determination and relentless work. Kinbozan won their only prior match, day 9 of January’s tournament.
Daishoho vs Kotoeko – Also making his top division debut, Daishoho will take on long term rival Kotoeko today. He has a 6-8 career deficit against Kotoeko, with their last match being three years ago at Osaka 2020 (silent basho). This match is tough to predict, as Kotoeko will always fight vigorously, but his health and readiness is an open question.
Kagayaki vs Takarafuji – I really, dearly hope that Takarafuji is back to fighting form. I fear that at his age and his recent record of poor performance, he may be in the waning days of his on-dohyo career. He managed a jump from Maegashira 16 to 12 with a 8-7 record in January, so he has a few more tournaments to sort himself out.
Azumaryu vs Takanosho – Azumaryu finished January 9-6, and received a nice boost up the banzuke to Maegashira 11 from his first ever kachi-koshi in the top division. Takanosho is another matter. After going 11-4 from Maegashira 4 last May, he was injured, and has been limping along in the middle ranks ever since. I would love to see him rally and bash and toss his way back up to Sekiwake, but I fear that may not come to pass.
Myogiryu vs Nishikifuji – There is a whole cadre of solid rikishi who had terrible scores in January. Nishikfuji finished 4-11, and Myogiryu finished 6-9. Both could use a “recovery basho”, and we all hope that’s what is going to come to pass this March. Myogiryu had a 3-1 career advantage over Nishikifuji.
Aoiyama vs Hiradoumi – Every time I think “Big Dan” Aoiyama is starting to age out of the top division, he rallies and bludgeons his way to a kachi-koshi. He has been make-koshi in 4 of the last 6 basho, and seems to only piece together a fully working body on some days. He has won 2 of the past 3 matches against Hiradoumi, and I expect a good fight today.
Ichiyamamoto vs Ura – I like Ura at this rank (Maegashira 8 west), he’s been struggling with his body and his sumo in the prior two basho, and I would like to see him re-organize his fighting technique to match what is increasingly damaged body can actually do. He has won 3 of the 4 prior fights against Ichiyamamoto, so with luck he may start in front of his home town crowd in Osaka with a win.
Hokutofuji vs Takayasu – You may take a double take here, saying “Wasn’t Takayasu getting ready to try once more for his former rank of Ozeki?” Yes, here he is down at Maegashira 7 W after a 1-5-9 record for January, that asw him withdraw on day 6 due to injuries. A real shame after two yusho-dotten and a jun-yusho in the past year. But that year also saw him twice have to sit out a tournament. He’s up against Hokutofuji, who can hold his own against Takayasu. The share a 7-12 record on the clay.
Endo vs Sadanoumi – Another home town favorite, Endo draws speed fighter Sadanoumi today. At Maegashira 6 East, he likely won’t have to fight the lone surviving Ozeki this basho, and we may get to seem him continue his good sumo that brought him a 9-6 finish to Hatsu. He has a 7-6 career record against Sadanoumi.
Kotoshoho vs Midorifuji – After scoring an 11-4 Jun-Yusho in January, Kotoshoho finds himself near his highest career rank (M3e). The last time he was ranked at Maegashira 5, he finished 8-7 , and it would be great to see him turn in a kachi-koshi this time as well. Midorifuji finished Hatsu with a disappointing 6-9, and will be looking to overcome that, and his 1-5 career deficit against Kotoshoho today.
Onosho vs Meisei – I was a bit surprised when a 10-5 finish in January only needed Onosho a modest boost from Maegashira 8 to Maegashira 4. He’s up against Meisei, who is on his way down the banzuke after a mirror image 5-10 score from a Komusubi rank in January. They share an even 6-6 career record.
Daieisho vs Nishikigi – Nishikigi… Maegashira 3? Yeah, i know. But his sumo in January was good enough for a 9-6 finish, and so we get to see him near his all time high rank. He was last this far up the banzuke in November of 2018 during what I referred to then as his “Magical Mystery Tour”. The following month, he picked up a kinboshi. He’s up against Komusubi 2 East Daieisho, who struggles with Nishikigi’s preference to battle hug his opponents into submission. They share a 5-6 career record.
Mitakeumi vs Kotonowaka – Regardless of the back-story of former Ozeki Mitakeumi, I think that if his health is ok, he may play a pivotal role this March. When he’s not hurt, we know he can really rack up the wins. We will get our first look today against Kotonowaka, who managed to hold his Komusubi rank in January with a final day kachi-koshi. He has won five of the prior 7 matches with Mitakeumi.
Wakamotoharu vs Ryuden – Its kind of amazing to me that we have two Onami brothers in the san’yaku this tournament. Both deserve to be there, and have some fantastic sumo. This is Wakamotoharu’s first ever fight against Ryuden, who will likely accept his invitation to go chest to chest and fight it out. Frankly, looking forward to it.
Kiribayama vs Abi – Its about time for Kiribayama to start putting together double digit wins from the named ranks, and right on cue he turned in an 11-4 jun-yusho in January, starting his own Ozeki run. I don’t think he’s quite ready yet, but I think it will be soon. He has a 3-1 career advantage over Abi, who managed a 8-7 kachi-koshi at Hatsu.
Shodai vs Hoshoryu – I don’t know what to make of Shodai. I am going to chalk up his terrible performance over the past 3 basho to some undisclosed injury. I know I am hard on him, mostly for the same reason I was hard on Goeido. Huge potential in his sumo that he can’t bring under control and employ day after day. I love it when Shodai can move and power around the dohyo with his “Cartoon Sumo” ready to spring impossible physics at any moment. Instead I think Hoshoryu is going to overwhelm him and toss him aside today. He has a 6-3 career advantage.
Wakatakakage vs Tamawashi – We know that Wakatakakage can score double digits from the Sekiwake 1 East slot he’sd done it twice before, securing both a yusho and a jun-yusho. But the last two tournaments have been a bit less intense for him, and he may not be an Ozeki contender until the second half of this year – if he can get back to good form. I think that he won’t struggle with Abi, as Wakatakakage long ago figured out how to shut down Abi-zumo.
Tobizaru vs Takakeisho – If Takakeisho wants the rope, and there is every indication that he does, he will start his evolution toward that ultimate prize today against sumo’s flying monkey, Tobizaru. He has not especially dominated his matches against Tobizaru in the past, having only a narrowest 4-3 lead.