Happy birthday, ozeki!

So, sumo world’s last hours have been pretty tough, which a fair amount of scandal.

To brighten our moods, let’s wish a happy birthday to one of our two ozeki!

It’s… Takakeisho’s 24th birthday !

The Chiganoura resident is still quite young, which is usually the promise of some bright coming wrestling years.

His body condition has unfortunately subject to debate until recently.

Takakeisho’s remarkable rise has brought him one yusho at the end of the year 2018. He ended up being promoted to sumo’s second highest rank, after Osaka’s basho in 2019.

Alas, he sustained his first serious knee injury right after; Takakeisho was demoted after sitting out the whole Nagoya basho, in July 2019.

He performed impressively well for his return as an ozekiwake in Aki, and narrowly missed his second yusho, being defeated by Mitakeumi in the playoff. Takakeisho sustained another major injury, this time on his chest, during that bout. His fine 12-3 record, however, allowed him to regain the ozeki rank.

Ozeki Takakeisho

He has been kadoban another time after the Osaka basho 2020 (7-8), and cleared that status during the last basho (8-4-3), before giving priority to his health condition.

Let’s wish him to do well before reaching the quarter century landmark!

Tokyo July Basho Day 13 Highlights

Chiyomaru v Tochinoshin. That matchup was cause of some concern for Chiyomaru, and everything went indeed according to the Georgian’s plans.
Tochinoshin endures a few nodowa, resists Chiyomaru’s early forward
driving, and seizes his opponent’s mawashi. No problem for Tochinoshin driving his opponent to the dohyo limits. Simple yorikiri win, and Chiyomaru is heading to juryo.

Shimanoumi v Kotoyuki. Kotoyuki’s trademark thrusts take place after the tachi-ai, but lack power to move his opponent backwards. Shimanoumi seizes the opportunity to surge forward, and eventually sends Kotoyuki to the clay. Shimanoumi’s quest to safety looks successful, whereas it’s looking grim for Kotoyuki, whose knees looked to severely trouble him after the bout.

Wakatakakage v Myogiryu. Wakatakakage shifts to his left at the tachi-ai. He looks successful to drive Myogiryu outside the dohyo, using a nodowa at the edge. But Myogiryu resists, and manages to pull his opponent down before putting a foot outside the dohyo. No mono-ii, and the replays show a clear hatakikomi win.

Kaisei v Nishikigi. Kaisei gets the initiative after the tachi-ai, but
his momentum drives him a bit too far as his right arm is held by
Nishikigi. Kaisei is drived to the edge, but an ultra strong left grip
helps him surviving Nishikigi’s first yorikiri attempt. Incredible
resistance. Nevermind, Nishikigi regains his breath and succeeds with a second yorikiri attempt. He gives himself hope for survival.

Kotoshoho v Chiyotairyu. A decent tachi-ai from Kotoshoho, who tries to repell his opponent with both hands on the chest area. It’s not overly efficient, but it raises Chiyotairyu’s upper body. The Tokyo-born rikishi blindly rushes forward, and Kotoshoho basically does, er… nothing. Chiyotairyu powerfully crashes to the clay. The newbie gets his kashi koshi, Chiyotairyu the undesired make koshi.

Tamawashi v Kotoeko. Kotoeko gets blasted at the tachi-ai, and his
helpless to survive a couple more thrusts from Tamawashi. The Mongolian efficiently targets Kotoeko’s neck to duly push him out of the ring.
Both now share a 9-4 record.

Ishiura v Takayasu. Ishiura goes frontal and tries to incomodate
Takayasu. The left hand on his opponent’s chest, and the right hand taking care of Takayasu’s left arm: the former ozeki had to face that strategy earlier this basho. He is even caught off balance once, but recovers; Ishiura’s attempts globally lack strength. He is himself caught too low, and is pulled down by Takayasu. Hatakikomi win.

Sadanoumi v Tokushoryu. Both wrestlers go chest to chest after the
tachi-ai. If yotsu zumo is Sadanoumi’s thing, his right arm is useless because of Tokushoryu’s clever left arm position. Tokushoryu’s strength
prevails, and that’s an impressive yorikiri win for him.

Kotoshogiku v Ryuden. Ryuden is faster on the tachi-ai, but only to go
chest to chest with his opponent. Giku can’t get his gaburi sumo going, and a battle on the mawashi takes place. Both have a strong grip with one hand, and Ryuden eventually prevails over the former ozeki. Another yorikiri win.

Terutsuyoshi v Kiribayama. The Isehagama resident has had some bad tachi-ai this basho, losing straight after it. He got this time a decisive advantage right after the collision: he stands low, and catches Kiribayama in a morozashi. Kiribayama is impressively drived backwards, and is powerless to resist. Kiribayama’s basho at his career best turns ugly (4-9).

Shohozan v Onosho. A nervous matta by Onosho. Shohozan does him no favour at the second attempt, though. He produces a henka and the bout is over from the start. Onosho’s terrible run continues, and demotion is now looming: he has to find a way to victory tomorrow or Sunday.

Takanosho v Takarafuji. Takanosho goes to Takarafuji’s neck at the tachi-ai, and efficiently drives him back. Takarafuji shows his opponent
the door, but this is not the last trick: Takanosho survives, and manages to pull Takarafuji down while dancing around the bales. Mono-ii: did Takanosho step out? The gyoji’s verdict stands: Takanosho’s right foot was JUST inside. A close win, which brings Takanosho one win away from his kashi koshi.

Ikioi v Yutakayama. Yutakamaya promptly reacts at the tachi-ai, and gets the upper hand. As Ikioi resists, Yutakayama side-steps and tries to get a hand on the back of his opponent’s mawashi. He eventually seizes his belt, and reinforces his grip, while Ikioi gets himself a grip before it’s too late. The Osaka born wrestler tries a uwatenage, but his attempt is sabotaged by Yutakayama’s leg trip attempt. The latter wins by sotogake.

Endo v Hokutofuji. Endo is driven back at the tachi-ai, by Hokutofuji’s
trademark, powerful oshi zumo. Endo resists quite well, but fails to drive Hokutofuji out of his comfort zone. Endo is sent down to the clay: a straightforward hatakikomi win for Hokutofuji.

Enho v Okinoumi. Another matta on an Enho bout. He goes for Okinoumi’s right leg, at the second attempt. It does not work, and that’s another battle with Enho sitting under his opponent’s chest. Okinoumi shakes his opponent quite efficiently, and manages to raise the Miyagino resident. Enho’s defences are breached, and that’s an oshitaoshi win for Okinoumi, who gets his kashi koshi on day 13!

Daieisho v Aoiyama. As expected, a feisty thrusting battle takes place
between the two. Daieisho survives a pulling attempt. A small break settles, as both rikishi try to grab the other’s hand. Aoiyama sees an opportunity and resumes the fight with a furious thrust. He looks set to win that one, but his uncoordonate attempt makes him lose balance, and the Bulgarian crashes out as Daieisho moves to the side! Aoiyama looks pissed to have lost that one, but that was some fun.

Kagayaki v Mitakeumi. Kagayaki gives Mitakeumi no hope of seizing his mawashi, but he’s rushing forward way too heavily. Mitakeumi releases
the pressure on his opponent’s chest, moves to the side, and that’s quite an easy hikiotoshi win. Mitakeumi has reached double digit wins.

Asanoyama v Terunofuji. THE BOUT OF THE TOURNAMENT. Both men logically go for the mawashi at the tachi-ai. Terunofuji has the required
strength, sure. All eyes on his knees: can he sustain that formidable
challenge? He does, manages to pivot, and drives Asanoyama backwards.
The ozeki is ressourceful, though, and sends all his energy trying to pivot himself to regain the advantage. Terunofuji resists, and is on the highway to drive Asanoyama back a second time. The ozeki has no ressources left to avoid his fate. YORIKIRI WIN FOR TERUNOFUJI!

Hakuho v Shodai. Unsurprinsingly, Hakuho is kyujo. It’s no quality win
for Shodai, but he nevertheless improves to an impressive 10-3 record.

What a day!

Sumo Tokyo July Basho Day 13 Preview

This basho gets more and more intriguing. I’m really having fun watching it – not only because my favorite rikishi, Terunofuji, is unexpectedly on the leaderboard… I hope everybody shares my enthusiasm for this basho.

Let’s have a look at what’s at stake for the last days :

The yusho race

The last two days obviously have changed many things. Hakuho looked rather good during the first week, but it seems his body has abandoned him again. To be honest, I’m expecting a kyujo announcement, which would leave Asanoyama and Terunofuji fighting for the Cup. Sadly, the decider won’t happen on Sunday, as they will face each other as soon as tomorrow. If Terunofuji wins, he could well face the pair of sekiwake for the last two days – that would provide nice competition to the former ozeki, to justify him having the hands on the Cup – for the second time.

If Asanoyama wins, the schedule would be interesting to watch. He is still to face Shodai. Given Takakeisho’s absence, that match could take place on senshuraku – a musubi no ichiban with Shodai! Who else he would fight on Saturday, remains top be seen. Terunofuji would maybe get a lighter opponent on day 14, and face a second san’yaku opponent (Mitakeumi ?) on senshuraku, if he were to win on Saturday.

San’yaku traffic jam

I was first tempted to say that san’yaku talks will be quite calm, after that basho. There’s still room for speculation, though. True, Takakeisho has saved his rank, whereas neither Shodai nor Mitakeumi are on line for an immediate ozeki promotion, and will stay as sekiwake. Nevertheless, a third sekiwake sport might be opened for Daieisho, should he win out. His record would be 11-4, having defeated Hakuho in the process. The board could entice him to sustain his own ozeki quest, in that situation.

What about Okinoumi? He’s fighting pretty well, an dis one win away from his kashi koshi. Should he fail to do so, or should Daieisho get a sekiwake slot, the contenders to fill the gap(s) are: Endo (M1, 6-6) and Takanosho (M2, 6-6).

The race to survival

As we already know, Kotonowaka’s unfortunate knee injury, sustained during his bout against Kaisei on day 7, means the promising rikishi will have to return to the juryo scramble.

Uncertainty mars Abi’s fate. The tall wrestler is awaiting punishment from the board, after breaching the pandemic security measures. Mathematically, Abi would be safe; but this is not the first time he will get punished. As a consequence, juryo demotion would not appear too much a sanction…

Let’s turn to “mathematical” predictions. After today’s win, Kotoyuki is now 6-6. Being ranked maegashira 17, he’ll nevertheless need to win two of his last three bouts, in order to get his kashi koshi and be safe for Aki.

Nishikigi will also have to dig deep. He stands one rank higher than Kotoyuki, but has one less win (5-7). Here, too, Nishikigi should try to grab two wins, in order to remain in makuuchi next basho.

Chiyomaru is on the verge of demotion. Only a perfect record from now could perhaps lead him to a final makuuchi spot. The only problem is that there’s no reason to believe his level would spectacularly improve from now…

Shohozan’s disastrous tournament could put an end to an almost historical presence of the veteran in top division. Apart from a juryo stint during half the year 2015, Shohozan has been in makuuchi since 2011. Only a 5-10 record could eventually put the Fukuoka born rikishi to safety.

Shimanoumi still needs one more win to be assured of a place in makuuchi by Aki.

After a bright resurgence at the beginning of the year, Ikioi surprinsingly finds himself in a battle against demotion. The odds would remain open, should the Osaka born wrestler snatch one single win. Two wins or more would give Ikioi some breathing space.

And finally… Onosho ! It’s quite unbelievable to see such a high ranked rikishi – at maegashira 2 – being subject of demotion talks. The last man to be demoted to juryo directly from that rank is Tochitsukasa, back in 1990. The unfortunate rikishi was actually kyujo, and a 0-0-15 record proved fatal. Prior to that, we have to back to 1804 to find such an occurrence! That terrible record could be shared by Onosho, if he stays zenpai until the end. If he eventually finds his way to shonichi, he’ll be safe.

The others have already found their way towards safety.

Makuuchi promotion

Several makuuchi rikishi remain in danger of demotion, and a fair amount of them might end up in juryo. That would, as a consequence, allow some juryo wrestlers to enter the top division, even if their record would rather have suggested a slight move to the top juryo ranks.

Meisei ranked juryo 1, already has his kashi koshi and will return to makuuchi in Aki.Tobizaru is one win away from his own kashi koshi, and a likely first stint in makuuchi. Kyokushuho (J3, 6-6) and Daiamami (J4, 6-6) are outsiders, but could be pipped by likes of Kyokutaisei (J5, 8-4), Ichinojo (J5, 7-5) or even Hoshoryu (J6, 8-4), should they bolster their winning records as high as possible.

So let’s now see tomorrow’s schedule:

Chiyomaru v Tochinoshin. As said, Chiyomaru is in serious danger and will have to avoid Tochinoshin getting a grip on his mawashi, at any cost. Otherwise, it would be curtains for the Kokoe resident.

Shimanoumi v Kotoyuki. That’s a battle between two rikishi who have given themselves hope for survival, by impressive means: Shimanoumi has won his last two bouts, whereas Kotoyuki is on a five win streak! If Shimanoumi can sustain his opponent’s furious thrusts, he’ll be immune to demotion.

Wakatakakage v Myogiryu. Wakatakakage is also on a five win streak, and will face Myogiryu, who is starting to slow down after an impressive start, even if he rebounded well today with a win. Wakatakakage likes to finish strongly his tournaments, and will have to outsmart the veteran’s experience here.

Kaisei v Nishikigi. One of these wrestlers will get his make koshi tomorrow. Nishikigi is fighting for way more than Kaisei, who is likely to just face some demotion down the maegashira ranks. Furthermore, Nishikigi has been dominating debates in the past, leading the matchups 6 to 3. 

Tamawashi v Kotoeko. Tamawashi is now out of the arasoi, having sustained a fourth loss today. Kotoeko’s impressive run continues, being now 9-3. He has the necessary weapons to overcome Tamawashi’s oshi zumo, but is yet to defeat the Mongolian.

Kotoshoho v Chiyotairyu. Kotoshoho’s battle for kashi koshi goes on, as he’s looking for his eigth win since day ten. The youngster is obviously struggling now, but could be helped with his opponent’s below-par form : Chiyotairyu is 5-7, and lost twice in a row.

Ishiura v Takayasu. That’s an interesting first matchup between the unpredictable Ishiura, and the no-nonsense Takayasu. There’s no doubt Ishiura will have something in mind before facing the former ozeki, if should he move sideways, he would undoubtly go to his right – Takayasu’s left side.

Sadanoumi v Tokushoryu. I was surprised to see that tomorrow’s bout will be the seventeenth between these two. Both are 6-6, and fighting hard to get their kashi koshi. That should be an interesting clash, Sadanoumi prefering yotsu zumo, whereas Tokushoryu deploys his trademark oshi zumo.

Kotoshogiku v Ryuden. Giku showed us he’s still far from done, right from the beginning of the basho. He’s starting to slow down here, though, and perhaps that will favour Ryuden, who has to win out in order to avoid being make koshi.

Terutsuyoshi v Kiribayama. Kiribayama is make koshi, having gotten an avoidable loss against Yutakayama. He showed no mercy to Enho, and could relish this pairing against another pixie. Terutsuyoshi just won by ashitori, right after the tachi-ai, and will have to produce something else against a dangerous opponent.

Shohozan v Onosho. Now, this is a bout with unexpected implications. Shohozan’s long makuuchi stay could be dealt a deadly blow by tomorrow, whereas Onosho’s mad run could bring him one step closer to an unbelievable demotion by Aki. Time to wake up, guys.

Takanosho v Takarafuji. Takanosho’s three loss in a row came to an end today, and he’s still in contention for his kashi koshi, which would see him reach a new career high in September. I expect him to produce a solid performance tomorrow, against Takarafuji, who is already make koshi.

Ikioi v Yutakayama. Yutakayama showed admirable resistance on today’s victory, given his terrible record. He’s back on winning ways, which could be problematic for Ikioi’s battle against demotion. The Osaka born rikishi, on the other hand, isn’t looking good at all.

Endo v Hokutofuji. Endo won his last four bouts, an dis finally showing what he’s capable of. Hokutofuji is doing quite well at 7-5, but struggles to get his eigth. Endo has been dominating the debates in the past, with eigth wins to four losses, and could well add another win here.

Enho v Okinoumi. Thanks to Seiyashi for noticing I missed on that bout! What a folly! Anyway, Enho is trying to avoid make koshi, while Okinoumi could be granted san’yaku survival. The Shimane-ken born rikishi’s form is good, and I tend to believe he’ll seal that win tomorrow. But it’s simply unwise to write off the L

Daieisho v Aoiyama. That will surely be a fun oshi zumo bout to watch between the two. Aoiyama has to win out to avoid being make koshi, whereas Daieisho could be tempted to set his sights on higher spots than komusubi. He basically needs to win out in order to do so, but will have to overcome a 3-6 deficit in his matchups against the Bulgarian.

Kagayaki v Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi will be in buoyant mood after his win against Hakuho. He’s 9-3, has defeated an ozeki and a yokozuna, and will look to add three more wins, to strongly bid for ozeki promotion in Aki. Kagayaki has failed to find the key against the sekiwake so far, having lost their two previous meetings.

Terunofuji v Asanoyama. And this is, really unexpectedly, the bout of the tournament. Terunofuji has done wonders, and gave the audience no reason to express fear for his knees. Tomorrow’s opposition, though, will be miles over what he had to face until now. It has to be said Terunofuji has the experience. But could he really defeat the shin ozeki, who’s faring excellently, at 11-1 ? I’d love to, but I doubt it.

Hakuho v Shodai. As already said, I’m not even expecting Hakuho to feature on the dohyo tomorrow. And iof he shows up, Shodai is no longer his favorite toy, the sekiwake having emerged victorious last basho. Given Hakuho’s obvious limp today, a win would be a great piece of business.

Tokyo July Basho Day 11 Preview

We’re entering the final third of this truly interesting basho! Let’s see if day 11 can bring us a few surprises…

Nishikigi v Chiyoshoma. After a difficult start, Nishikigi is starting to settle down and has piled up some wins. He’s still far from safe, though, and has succumbed many times to Chiyoshoma’s oshi zumo: the Mongolian leads the matchups 6 to 2.

Chiyomaru v Wakatakakage. His Roundness is another rikishi in great danger, but with some recent improvement on his record. He is unbeaten against Wakatakakage, whom he faced thrice. Still, the pixie is on a good run, and I tend to believe he’ll manage to break the curse against Chiyomaru this time.

Terunofuji v Tochinoshin. Now, this will be an exciting battle. Two former ozeki with serious knee issues, and with the same yotsu zumo style, are set to collide. Both men have welcomed the long sumo break to heal, and Tochinoshin is on his way to a first kachi koshi after five losing records in a row. I think the Georgian will have the edge on that battle of the fragile knees.

Shimanoumi v Shohozan. Neither men, already make koshi, are looking good this basho. If Shohozan has been caught by Terunofuji’s tachi-ai trickery today, Shimanoumi isn’t delivering at all. Perhaps Shohozan will emerge with a meagre advantage here.

Kotoyuki v Myogiryu. The bottom banzuke is rebelling ! Kotoyuki, too, has improved after a disastrous 1-6 start, and has now won three in a row. Defeating in form Myogiryu won’t be an easy task. Interestingly, Kotoyuki has an excellent record (11-3) against Myogiryu, both favoring oshi zumo.

Kotoeko v Ikioi. Kotoeko is perfoming consistently well here, having won a good bout against Meisei, today’s juryo visitor. Ikioi, on the other head, is crumbling and lost his last five bouts. I twill prove quite difficult for him to overcome Kotoeko’s ultra dynamic sumo.

Tamawashi v Kotoshoho. Both men are on the verge of getting their kachi koshi here, but fatigue seems to grow for both – they lost half of their ten combined bouts. Hence, I tend to favour Tamawashi’s experience over his young opponent.

Takayasu v Chiyotairyu. Both rikishi have a decent basho, being 5-5. If Takayasu has a considerable advantage over his opponent (eleven wins to just three losses), and won the last six bouts between them, all these wins came as Takayasu was still an ozeki. Can Chiyotairyu benefit from the precarious physical condition of his opponent ?

Ishiura v Sadanoumi.Sadanoumi seems to be a rikishi Ishiura likes to face, with eight win to the latter’s credit. If Ishiura had a slow start, there’s still hope for him to get his eight wins, as Sadanoumi is struggling, too, at 4-6.

Kaisei v Tokushoryu. Kaisei is having a so so tournament, being 4-6. If the maegashira 2 rank, righter after his surprise yusho, proved a bit too high for Tokushoryu, he settled down quite well at maegashira 7. He’s having a good 6-4 basho, and will look to overcome his negative record against Kaisei (4-9).

Terutsuyoshi v Kotoshogiku. Salt bae’s three win streak has come to an end, having succumbed to Tamawashi’s very efficient thrusts. He might feel more comfortable trying to avoid the former ozeki’s trademark gaburi sumo. He did so twice, having lost just once to Giku. He might well grab another win tomorrow, but Kotoshogiku’s form is undeniable, currently having a 7-3 record.

Ryuden v Onosho. Ryuden is having a forgettable basho so far with a 4-6 record, but will relish the opportunity to win over the sorry Onosho, who is still zenpai after ten days. It looks like the twenty four years old could wrestle for years without getting a win; I dare not predict a shonichi against his experienced opponent.

Takanosho v Enho. Enho had unfortunately entered his trademark mid yusho crisis, having lost three in a row. He will have to find solutions against Takanosho, who can still hope for a winning record at his career best maegashira 2.

Aoiyama v Yutakayama. Sadly, one could believe Yutakayama won the duel of the winless against Onosho, simply because someone had to win that one. He unfortunately returned to losing habits today. Yutakayama has produced a great amount of energy during his bouts, though, and it cannot be said he succumbed without putting up a fight. Aoiyama will however relish the opportunity to face Yutakayama, after having met three san’yaku opponents during the last days.

Endo v Kiribayama. Both men share a 4-6 record, despite not having given the same impression at all. Endo is on the rise after a miserable start, while Kiribayama continues to learn against impressive opposition. He has shown an appreciable ability to adapt his strategy depending on his opponents, and he may well come with a plan to counter Endo’s straight yotsu zumo style.

Takarafuji v Okinoumi.That should be a tactical battle on the mawashi between these two, who still have quite some work to produce in order to get a winning record. Their matchups gives Takarafuji a slender advantage – eleven victories to nine losses, which does not help us guessing who will emerge victorious.

Shodai v Hokutofuji. Having just found the dust for the second time, Shodai is probably out of the yusho race now. He can still set his sights on an ozeki run, though. He’s facing another oshi wrestler, Hokutofuji, who is yet to defeat Shodai before their sixth meeting.

Kagayaki v Asanoyama. Asanoyama finally suffered his first loss as an ozeki! Mitakeumi’s challenge, to be true, was strong, and there is no reason to doubt about the ozeki’s overall form. Furthermore, he does not know Mitakeumi’s usual mid basho crumble. I expect him to keep the yusho race running, much to Kagayaki’s expense.

Takakeisho v Mitakeumi. Mitakeumi is still on alternative mode, having lost twice in a row before rebouncing nicely with a win over the basho’s other ozeki. What he’s going to show tomorrow remains a mystery, perhaps even to himself. Takakeisho, on the other hand, has a clear strategy : get an eighth win as soon as possible, in order to erase his kadoban status.

Hakuho v Daieisho. The yokozuna will be pleased to find himself once again as the basho’s sole leader, and it’s really hard imagining him giving away the advantage so soon after having gotten it. Not that Daieisho isn’t a threat – he managed to defeat the GOAT in November of last year.