Sumo debates for 2020 – 3/3

10. Will a rikishi win a yusho for the first time in 2020 ?

Last years showed us we’re not immune to great upsets, during a troubled period where top ranks are ageing and youngsters are struggling to meet up expectations. Indeed, 2018 and 2019 saw a maegashira lifting the Emperor’s Cup (Tochinoshin in 2018 and Asanoyama in 2019).

Anyone up for another surprise in 2020 ? At the risk of being a party spoiler, I’m not !

11. Will Hoshoryu reach maku’uchi ?

Lower divisions have seen the emergence in 2019 of Hoshoryu. Often called “nephew of…”, I’m sure he’ll want to prove his own strengh, in order to me remembered, not just as Asashoryu’s nephew.

A future star ? Hoshoryu Tomokatsu

His rise from jonokuchi has been pretty fast, although it took several honbasho for Hoshoryu to break the glass and reach the salaried ranks : from March of last year at makushita 7, 4-3, 4-3, 3-4 and 4-3 records saw him finally reach juryo. His first stint there did not bring much joy either, as he barely managed to save his rank, thanks to a senshuraku victory – he ended the tournament with a 7-8 make kochi.

Can he raise up his lever in 2020 ?

My prediction: Asashoryu has had harsh words towards him last year. I’m sure he will be a major help towards maku’uchi promotion in 2020.

12. Will Kotoshogiku stay in maku’uchi ?

Lots of words have been written about the way Kotoshogiku failed to regain his ozeki status, as an ozekiwake in March 2017. Since then, much less has been said about Kotoshogiku’s rather anonymous, albeit decent later career in maku’uchi – he even defeated Hakuho in Nagoya.

Former ozeki Kotoshogiku Kazuhiro (left)

Lately, his form has plunged, however. The former ozeki is on an unfortunate four make kochi streak (6-9, 7-8, 6-9, 6-9). He’ll turn 36 this month.

Can he find the winning formula again ? I’m afraid not.

13. Will Ishiura stay in maku’uchi ?

What about Ishiura ? Interestingly, he already spent six basho in a row in maku’uchi (from Kyushu 2016 to Aki 2017), but never during a full calendar year (he got demoted in Kyushu 2017 and Kyushu 2018). He spent four tournaments in the top division in 2019.

From hatakikomi to mitokorozeme : Ishiura Masakatsu

He is known for using the henka technique quite often during his bouts. Lately, however, his form seemed to improve, with combative 8-7 and 9-6 records at the end of the year. Last basho saw him use more raffined techniques, including one of the rarest techniques of the sport, mitokorozeme. It had not been used since Mainoumi, back in 1993 !

Can Ishiura’s sudden feisty sumo grant him a spot in maku’uchi during the whole year 2020 ? Unfortunately, I tend to say no.

14. Will Ura produce the greatest comeback ever ?

We spoke about Terunofuji’s remarkable return to juryo, and, possibly, to maku’uchi. What if Ura does the same ?

The greatest comeback ever ? Ura Kazuki

To put that question into context, Ura had a breakthrough in 2017, starting his first two honbasho in maku’uchi with two winning records. He even defeated former yokozuna Harumafuji in Nagoya, before seeing knee injuries totally stopping his rise. After almost a year without participating in a competitive bout, Ura started his comeback with 6-1 and 7-0 records in sandanme, before reinjuring his knees at the beginning of 2019. At the bottom of jonidan, Ura started his career again, producing a 6-1 record.

Is it on once and for all ? Can Ura produce six kachi koshi in 2020 ? Once again, I tend to say no, but wish him, as well as all other wrestlers and our readers, a successful year 2020 !

Miyagino Practice Fist-Fight

Photo Credit Nicola

Ishiura was involved in a fist fight with Makushita-ranked Hokaho. No, not Hakuho, though the big man himself stepped in to separate the two. Practice then ended abruptly and the incident was reported to the Crisis Committee. So, the scandal meter is reset to 1/4/2020, one week from the start of Hatsubasho.

Herouth’s got a thorough run-down of the events but in a nutshell, Ishiura took exception to Hokaho beating him. When he would lose to Hokaho, he’d lash out, with a kick or a punch. Since the incident has been reported, there will be an investigation into exactly how “hot-headed” Ishiura was and whether there is any need for punishment. That punishment could range from apologies and reprimand to potential suspension, likely hinging on how hard the blows were. Calls for retirement would be…a bit bizarre unless more back-story unfolds.

Keep in mind, this was practice where blows are supposed to be thrown…but not between bouts and fists and kicks are obviously a no-no. The location and reason would distinguish it from punches thrown as rebuke for chores done poorly but it will be interesting to see what standard is applied. Some, like Mitakeumi, are disparaged for low-intensity practice. The opposite end of the spectrum here, we have a practice that got out-of-hand.

For some insight about the practice intensity I’m talking about, there’s an interview of Steve Kerr a former teammate of Michael Jordan, where he reflects on a fist fight he had with Mike. Jordan is famous for a lot of things but one is the intensity that he brought to practice. Similarly, keiko is supposed to ready you for the real thing. So if you slack off there, how will you be ready when the harite is for a yusho?

Aki 2019 Jungyo report – Day 3

Mini-nobori outside the venue. These are about 2m high.

We are out of Ishikawa prefecture, and off to Toyama prefecture. And when you say “Toyama”, you say “Asanoyama”, as he is the prefecture’s representative in the salaried ranks of Grand Sumo. You can see the mini-nobori above. Most of them say “Asanoyama-zeki” (except one, red with embarrassment at its own obsolescence, carrying the name “Yoshikaze”).

I have to update you on another kyujo. It turns out Daiamami has also been kyujo since day 1. He was supposed to participate, and his name was on the torikumi list for day 1, but Tobizaru did his bout, and he has been absent from the list ever since.

Also, as of day 3, Gagamaru is also off the torikumi. I’m not sure whether he is still on the jungyo, I’ll keep you posted if I find out.

So let’s move on to the happier part of the report.

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Aki 2019 Jungyo report – Day 2

We are still in Ishikawa prefecture, but this time we are going a little south, to the city of Kanazawa. Do we have a rikishi from Kanazawa? Oh, yes, we do. Prepare for Enho Day!

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