NHK – Details On Yokozuna Hakuho’s Knee Surgery

As mentioned in our upcoming Aki podcast, Yokozuna Hakuho is likely to sit out the September tournament while recovering from surgery to both knees following his exit from the July tournament.

From the article

The sources say Hakuho had endoscopic surgery in mid-August to clean out the hardened ligament and other parts in his right knee. They say he also had surgery on his left knee.

The sources say Hakuho has been unable to practice wrestling even after the latest sumo rankings were released on Monday ahead of the autumn tournament.

Sumo is a combat sport, and it takes a cumulative toll on an athlete’s body, and in spite of Hakuho’s standing as possibly the greatest rikishi of all time, fans like myself worry that his body is wearing down after years dominating the ring.

We hope “The Boss” can recover and dazzle us once again with his sumo, though I fear it may not be until January 2021…

Yokozuna Hakuho Withdraws From July Tokyo Basho

Following his day 12 loss to Mitakeumi, Yokozuna Hakuho has withdrawn from the July Tokyo basho, citing injury to his right knee. As reported by Inside Sport Japan a short time ago:

His day 13 opponent was Shodai, who will will improve to 10-3. Does this mean that Shodai is on an Ozeki run? Hard to say if they will count a fusensho as one of his wins, but hey – it’s Shodai.

We hope “The Boss” can heal up and return to action for the next tournament, whenever that may be.

Tokyo July Basho Day 3 Preview

Your humble editor did in fact miss posting a day 2 preview. Some of you may say, “Bruce, what gives?”. Much as I love sumo, I admit that I have gotten myself tangled with a high priority software development project which, at least for the first half of the basho, is consuming most of my waking hours. It’s not my first startup. I love a good bootstrap effort, and this one may help a lot of people if we can get everything to work. If my writing seems like its coming from a point of bleary eyed exhaustion, give yourself +100 genki points. I do manage to sacrifice some sleep to watch the top division, and I give my undying thanks to Kintamayama and Natto Sumo for serving it up via YouTube for me to consume in bits when I can throughout the day.

What We Are Watching Day 3

Meisei vs Kotoyuki – Meisei returns from Juryo for the day to fill the torikumi gap left by Kakuryu’s absence. Kotoyuki is off to a slow start at 0-2, and seems to have put on a bit of weight during the quarantine period. There is some logic to top division rikishi striving to carry as much mass as their sumo can handle, I suspect that Kotoyuki may have over-shot by about 10kg.

Terunofuji vs Chiyomaru – I was fairly sure that Terunofuji’s day 2 match was headed for disaster. Kotoeko kept a high energy tug-and-shift routine going, trying to apply maximum torque to the relics of Terunofuji’s knees. We don’t get to know how much pain he is in following a match, and today he has to find a way to shift around the epic bulk of Chiyomaru. He has fought him 6 times before, taking 4. Terunofuji is certainly strong enough to muscle Chiyomaru around somewhat, but those knees…

Kotoshoho vs Nishikigi – After being a complete limp fish day 1, Nishikigi came back with some vigor on day 2. But it’s anyone’s guess which version shows up today against Kotoshoho. On the topic of Kotoshoho, he young rookie to the top division has opened strong with two straight wins, and may be in for a traditional first basho 10 win run.

Kotoeko vs Wakatakakage – Speaking of first basho streaks – Wakatakakage, why are you winless? Get it in gear sir! In their 3 prior matches, Kotoeko has not lost one, so there is a solid chance that the fellow that makes Raja Pradhan sound like a typewriter (Wakatakakage) may start July 0-3. Cue the worried sumo ladies in 3..2..1

Takayasu vs Kotoshogiku – Oh how I loved Takayasu’s day 2 match. A sight not seen in a few years. Shohozan was being his traditional self, and flagrantly attacking Takayasu’s injured left elbow. Takayasu eventually just grabbed Shohozan and held him still for a while. A long while. This was traditional Takayasu sumo, with enough stamina to keep 30 normal people turning cartwheels for an hour. I swear he took a nap in there too. No rush… You tired yet Shohozan? No? Zzzz. Zzzz ZZ. How about now? Going to be a different contest today as Kotoshogiku is going to get close fast and press ahead hard. They have 27(!) career matches, with a slight 15-12 Takayasu edge.

Kotonowaka vs Shohozan – I have my concerns that Kotonowaka will join the elite group that includes Aoiyama and Kagayaki. The guy has some solid sumo moves, and that should carry the day against a fading but surly Shohozan. As this is their first ever match, I am sure that “Big Guns” Shohozan is going to give him the full street brawl routine.

Shimanoumi vs Sadanoumi – Much like in the mock basho, these two seem to be stuck in an indeterminate sumo state, perhaps by observing them we can collapse their wave function into something genki? All I know is that the bulkier Shimanoumi seems to be susceptible to Sadanoumi’s lightning tachiai.

Tochinoshin vs Myogiryu – 25 career matches and the score is 12-13! I am delighted that Tochinoshin is appearing at least somewhat genki, and has none of the “roadkill” aura that he has carried the last two tournaments. I am not sure his knee is up for any sky-crane action, but fans can hope.

Tamawashi vs Kaisei – I really liked both of these veteran stalwart’s wins on day 2. Tamawashi gave Chiyotairyu a near tea-bagging, and Kaisei out-bruted Tochinoshin. Maybe Kaisei’s wedding recently has motivated him to higher levels of performance. Sumo fans, there is a whole lot of Kaisei, and if he gets motivated, they may need to have the dohyo repair crew on standby.

Ikioi vs Chiyotairyu – I think that both of them are a bit rusty at this stage, and are looking to keep fairly close to even by the end of the first act. Chiyotairyu has a slight 9-6 career lead, mostly due to his high energy cannonball tachiai, and his propensity to stand his opponent up and immediately knock them down at the start of the match. A gambit that works fairly well against the straight ahead Ikioi.

Terutsuyoshi vs Ishiura – Battle of the pixies, round 1. This time Terutsuyoshi is having a solid start, and Ishiura seems to be struggling. If you are asking yourself, “What happened to Ishiura?”, your judgement may be colored by the mock basho in May, where Ishiura was, at one point, the sole leader in the yusho race. I am sure real Ishiura would like to tap into fake Ishiura’s genki power right about now.

Tokushoryu vs Ryuden – Hatsu yusho winner and all around everyman Tokushoryu has started 0-2, possibly another victim of ring rust brought on by lack of joint training. Ryuden seems a bit under his normal performance level as well, but has managed to put his first white star on the board. I think that gives a slight edge to Ryuden today, but I am still looking for Tokushoryu to maintain a kachi-koshi pace.

Abi vs Enho – Straight up, Abi seems to also be a bit too massive for his sumo. Coupled with everyone getting a good hang of the ins and outs of “Abi-zumo”, his extra bulk have increased his ability to hold ground at the expense of attack speed. And frankly attack speed was the key to his sumo. The more he evolves closer to some kind of inflatable beach toy form, the easier it will be to overcome his offense. I give the nod to Enho if he can put down the beer for 10 minutes…

Hokutofuji vs Aoiyama – Hokutofuji also is looking quite rough. I know he is inherently streaky, and so once his sumo locks on, he should at least get to 7. But boy is it an uneven start for him. Big Dan has a matching 1-1 record, but looked more consistent in his first two matches. His day 2 match against Abi – brutal.

Kagayaki vs Kiribayama – For some reason, Kiribayama can’t yet get to a win. He’s up against Mr Fundamentals, who normally suffers a lot of ring rust. Not this July! He is focused and his sumo is sharp. While I would like to think that the young rising star, Kiribayama, can pull out a win here, I am going to favor Kagayaki keeping the streak alive.

Daieisho vs Takarafuji – So far we have yet to see Takarafuji deploy his defend and extend strategy. Everyone has just bundled him up and rushed him out with great effect. Daieisho is a good opponent to get back in stride, even though Takarafuji has a 4-6 career record against him. But Daieisho’s is prone to the stalemate tactics that Takarafuji prefers.

Onosho vs Mitakeumi – As an Onosho fan, his 0-2 start is disappointing, and it’s not going to get any better today when he steps off against an incredibly focused and genki Mitakeumi. During the mock basho, we had Mitakeumi likewise focused, strong and dominating nearly every match. I think it would be surprising and a bit spooky if he can replicate the Not-so-Basho result as well.

Shodai vs Takanosho – In the “What happened here” category – Shodai? He seems really hard, sharp and focused. Where his sumo and the past has been less than aggressive, so far this July he has come out strong and effective. I would guess Takanosho is smarting after two consecutive losses, and I would like to see him give Shodai a tough match.

Yutakayama vs Asanoyama – These two were once rivals when they first broke into the top division, and Yutakayama reached the top of the rank and file first, before injury forced him to regroup. Now its Asanoyama who is looking like a rock-solid Ozeki, and Yutakayama is struggling with an 0-2 start to July. They are tied 3-3 for their career, and both know how to disrupt and defeat the other. If Asanoyama can get his grip early, and shut down Yutakayama’s mobility, it’s going to be an 3-0 start for the shin-Ozeki.

Takakeisho vs Okinoumi – I think the 4 month stretch of relative isolation did Takakeisho quite a bit of good. He thus far seems to be strong, confident and back in control of his his body and his sumo. That day 1 shove against Yutakayama? BOOM! Okinoumi also seems to have benefited from the extended recovery period, and while he was no match for Hakuho, Kiribayama got a satisfying ejection from the ring. I favor Takakeisho in this one (6-2 career), especially because the Grand Tadpole seems to be back in the groove.

Hakuho vs Endo – A juicy, ripe morsel to finish the day. These two have had a bit of a blood feud going on for several tournaments, and both have shown a willingness to pound the other into a bloody mess. Hakuho looked rather tentative day 1, but gave Yutakayama a fast roll in the clay on day 2. We know the boss has been less than thrilled with the lack of test bouts leading up to the basho, and I suspect that the population of Oitekaze beya probably gave Endo somewhat better prep. Will there be blood?

Mock Natsu Day 3 Highlights

The tournament grinds on through act 1, and its becoming clear that this is once again Hakuho’s basho to lose. But surprisingly, his deshi Ishiura is keeping pace. Granted this is only day 3, but Ishiura has had a remarkable start. There was a time 2 years ago where he was little more than a self propelled henka delivery machine, and his sumo was about as exciting as a gardening show on YouTube. But it seems that maybe his work with Enho as a direct competitor has driven him to new levels of performance, and we are enjoying it throughly. Speaking of Enho, his equally dismissal 0-3 start is starting to be alarming. There were reports of him nursing an injury from Osaka, and that would explain his flagging performance. Or maybe its the second basho with now fans to cheer him on that has robbed him of his power to win matches. We hope whatever it is, he returns to form soon.

Highlight Matches

Kotoeko (2-1) defeats Chiyomaru (1-2) Oshidashi – Chiyomaru blasted Kotoeko at the tachiai, and frankly I thought he would just fall down in place. I am sometimes amazed at just how fast and powerful Chiyomaru is, he does more than a little to cultivate the notion of a harmless, jolly fat guy. Sure, he has a blubbery coating, but the interior seems to be 100% terminator. But at the moment that Chiyomaru (or shall we call him a Chi-1000?) moves to finish the match, Kotoeko steps deftly to his left, puts his hands on Chiyomaru’s expansive belly and shoves for all he’s worth.

Kotoshoho (1-2) defeats Terunofuji (0-3) Yorikiri – Its breaking my heart to see Terunofuji start 0-3. I worried he would be a big shaky with almost no practice, but he seems to now be struggling mentally as well. Terunofuji got a right hand inside grip at the tachiai, and forced Kotoshoho to work to gain any sort of advantage. Kotoshoho reversed into a Terunofuji pivot and found himself with a working grip, and an oblique angle to Terunofuji. Turned partially to the side, Terunofuji was unable to offer much forward pressure to stop Kotoshoho’s advance, and he went out for his third straight loss.

Wakatakakage (2-1) defeats Kotoyuki (2-1) Yorikiri – Kotoyuki picks up his first loss of the basho when his opening gambit goes flat. Kotoyuki got in first at the tachiai, but focused both hands on Wakatakakage’s face and neck, while Wakatakakage drove forward and inside, finding a hold. Kotoyuki countered with a pivot, but found he could not break Wakatakakage’s left hand grip. That move gave Wakatakakage a chance to improve his hold, and it was a fast trip across the tawara for Wakatakakage’s second win.

Nishikigi (2-1) defeats Kotoshogiku (2-1) Oshidashi – We finally get to see Nishikigi employ that double arm bar hold against Kotoshogiku, though it placed him at risk of Kotoshogiku’s favorite mode of attack. The Kyushu Bulldozer lowered the blade and went to work, but could not muster the power to put Nishikigi over the tawara, and Nishikigi rallied to thrust Kotoshogiku out.

Takayasu (3-0) defeats Shohozan (1-2) Yorikiri – I am getting terribly excited about Takayasu now, as he has picked up his 3rd win, and truly seems to be able to work through whatever lingering problems he may have with his left elbow, and whatever happened to his knees during Osaka. Takayasu delivered a right shoulder blast to Shohozan’s face, and the two immediately began training windmill blows to each other’s upper bodies. Shohozan was getting the worse of punishment, and went left hand inside, taking Takayasu to his chest, but Shohozan managed to latch onto Takayasu’s left hand, twisting and pinning the injured arm to his belly. An attempt at a pull down from Shohozan freed up Takayasu’s left hand, and his lethal weapon found its mark. Trapped in a giant, hairy battle-hug. Shohozan twisted and writhed to find any escape, but Takayasu advanced with power to put him over the bales. Impressive 3-0 start for the former Ozeki.

Sadanoumi (2-1) defeats Kotonowaka (0-3) Yorikiri – Kotonowaka has a lot of useable mass, but I worry his tachiai is almost Shodai soft. He barely got his hands off the ground before Sadanoumi was latched onto Kotonowaka’s sky blue mawashi. With a left hand inside grip, Sadanoumi stood Kotonowaka up. Kotonowaka countered with a powerful right hand thrust to the side of Sadanoumi’s head, sending him off balance, but that left hand grip held. With Kotonowaka disrupted by his failed throw attempt, Sadanoumi landed the right hand inside, and with morozashi, lifted and propelled Kotonowaka over the tawara.

Shimanoumi (3-0) defeats Myogiryu (1-2) Hatakikomi – A drawn out test of stamina, both rikishi were amazingly low at the tachiai, but Shimanoumi was a half step faster. Both men went for a left hand inside grip, and pushed and grappled for advantage for over a minute, wearing each other down. Twice they broke contact, just to lock up yet again. Losing stamina, Myogiryu was leaning forward as the two were chest to chest in the center of the dohyo as the match passed just over a minute. Shimanoumi had his right arm wrapped around Myogiryu’s left arm, with the left hand having a deep inside grip. It looked like Myogiryu was working to set up a throw, when Shimanoumi’s release forward pressure and pulled Myogiryu to the clay. Shimanoumi starts the basho 3-0.

Tochinoshin (1-2) defeats Kaisei (1-2) Yorikiri – We hear a sigh of relief from Europe as former Ozeki Tochinoshin picks up his first win of the tournament. Kaisei put all of his effort into blocking Tochinoshin’s left hand outside grip, but left himself wide open for a shallow right hand / frontal grip. As Kaisei worked to set up an offensive position, Tochinoshin got his left hand seated, and found the strength in his knees to advance. Very happy to see him get a win.

Chiyotairyu (2-1) defeats Tamawashi (1-2) Hatakikomi – If you are fighting Chiyotairyu, you always have to be on guard for him to stand you up with a blast at the tachiai, and immediately slap you down. This worked flawlessly against Tamawashi who was driving for an inside position to move the big Kokenoe man around, but Chiyotairyu’s sudden release of forward pressure sealed Tamawashi’s fate, giving him his second consecutive loss.

Ishiura (3-0) defeats Ikioi (0-3) Yorikiri – It’s obvious that elbow is not doing well. Today’s match against Ishiura was a lesson in how grim determination keeps Ikioi in a tournament when he might just as well be in an orthopedic ward. Ikioi put a lot of energy into the tachiai, which rocked Ishiura back on his heels, but Ishiura managed to shift the follow through, leaving Ikioi off angle with his opponent. Ishiura latched on to that injured right arm and gave it a solid twist. Likely ultimately painful, but it opened Ikioi’s chest, and Ishura dug in. Lower than Ikioi with a solid left hand grip, there was little the injured Ikioi could do to stop Ishiura’s advance. Ishiura starts the basho with a surprising 3-0.

Ryuden (2-1) defeats Terutsuyoshi (1-2) Oshidashi – We were waiting for the first Ryuden matta fest, but Terutsuyoshi started this round. No fewer than 3 matta before the two finally got underway, and I do think that Konosuke was mad enough to eat his gumbai. Ryuden connected a left shoulder to Terutsuyoshi’s face at the tachiai, opening a cut above his right eye. In spite of his inside position, Ryuden contained him, shut down his offense and sent him flying across the east side tawara.

Tokushoryu (3-0) defeats Enho (0-3) Uwatenage – It takes a lot of guts to drop your hands at the tachiai against a big man like Tokushoryu. But Enho seems to have wagered he could get in beneath that giant belly and find a grip. Instead what he got was a meaty arm against his chest and a quick trip to the clay. I am not sure if I am more surprised by Tokushoryu’s 3-0 start or Enho’s 0-3.

Aoiyama (1-2) defeats Abi (1-2) Hatakikomi – With Abi already aiming high at the tachiai, it’s a simple move for Big Dan to stand him up and swat him down. Of course it takes size, strength and determination to whether the unrelenting facial assault you will receive while you set that up, but it makes the results no less glorious. I have to image Abi is going to get it in gear shortly. The lack of sparring in the last 8 weeks seems to have really left him struggling.

Hokutofuji (2-1) defeats Kagayaki (2-1) Oshidashi – I really like both of these guy’s sumo, so it’s a highlight for me any time they fight. The first half of this match was all Kagayaki, and it seemed that Hokutofuji could not make anything stick. But once Kagayaki put Hokutofuji’s heels on the tawara, Hokutofuji battled back with fierce determination, putting all of his energy into Kagayaki’s body. Shame the couldn’t both win.

Daieisho (2-1) defeats Takarafuji (1-2) Kotenage – Daieisho opened with a well placed nodowa, and that really set the tone for the match. Takarafuji eventually broke the choke hold, but his body was wide open for Daieisho to hook the arm inside and unleash the throw. Luckily it didn’t look like it injured Takarafuji.

Mitakeumi (2-1) defeats Onosho (0-3) Hatakikomi – I am glad we are getting these tadpole battles out of the way early, as they worry me. It surprises no one that Onosho was too far forward at the tachiai, or that Mitakeumi exploded it with pinpoint precision. I does surprise me that Onosho has started 0-3 for the tournament, but he does tend to go on hot / cold streaks. I hope he can regroup and start to rack up the wins.

Shodai (2-1) defeats Kiribayama (1-2) Uwatenage – A crappy tachiai from Shodai seemed to signal this was going to be Kiribayama’s match, but Shodai managed to sacrifice power at the start for a left hand inside grip just under Kiribayama’s arm. It seems Kiribayama knew he had trouble at once, and worked to circle away, but only managed to let Shodai get a right hand mawashi grip at Kiribayama’s waist. As Kiribayama rushed forward, Shodai pivoted to his left and dropped Kiribayama like a bag of sand. Solid “plan B” from Shodai today.

Asanoyama (2-1) defeats Endo (0-3) Yorikiri – I worry that the pasting Endo took from Hakuho on day 2 may have rattled Endo, as I think that these two should have been a closer fight. I certainly did not expect Endo to finish day 3 at 3-0. Endo had the better tachiai, he was lower, but could not land his desired frontal grip. Impressive to see him immediately go to a backup attack, pressing Asanoyama’s arms together and advancing strongly. But that left Endo wide open for Asanoyama to break out, and land a left hand outside grip. From there it was like looking at some Edo period wood block print of two powerful men locked in battle. Asanoyama had the advantage, and as he backed to the tawara, Endo tried a rescue throw, but could not get the pivot started before Asanoyama’s body plowed him down.

Takakeisho (2-1) defeats Okinoumi (0-3) Oshidashi – Takakeisho stood Okinoumi up at the tachiai, with both hands under an armpit each. Okinoumi took a big step back to give him room to recover, but Takakeisho kept up the pressure, and kept his hands driving into the tender flesh underneath the arms. Moving strongly away, Okinoumi moved to deflect Takakeisho’s advance, but found himself shoved over the bales for his 3rd straight loss.

Takanosho (3-0) defeats Kakuryu (2-1) Oshidashi – One of the challenges of Kakuryu’s reactive sumo is that it relies on your opponent being to eager to finish the match, and rushing into false openings the Yokozuna tends to present. I saw Kakuryu give Takanosho at least 2 chances to “finish him” but Takanosho took his time, and was almost toying with the Yokozuna. In the end, Kakuryu ran out of ring to play with, and found himself forced out by a well timed blast by Takanosho, scoring not just a win, but Takanosho’s first kinboshi.

Hakuho (3-0) defeats Yutakayama (1-2) Uwatenage – Does Hakuho get bored with unleashing uwatenage? I don’t get tired of watching him do it, even when its against favorites like “Big Unit” Yutakayama. Hakuho still seems to enjoy beating rikishi with their “own brand of sumo”, and today he traded blows with Yutakayama, giving better than he received. There was a moment when Yutakayama rallied and got both hands inside and around Hakuho’s chest, but this only signaled to the dai-Yokozuna that play time was over, and he set up the throw. The kimarite is listed as Uwatenage, but Hakuho only got it half executed before Yutakayama collapsed, with Hakuho landing on top of him.