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Kirishima Wins His Second Emperor's Cup with Stellar 13-2 Record at Kyushu Basho

In his final Kyushu Basho match, Kirishima used his superior athleticism against Takakeisho en route to his ninth straight win and first title as an ozeki.

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Kyushu Basho
Kirishima receives the Emperor's Cup from Japan Sumo Association chairman Hakkaku after winning the Kyushu Basho on November 26, 2023, in Fukuoka. (ⒸSANKEI)

Sekiwake Kotonowaka defeated Atamifuji on the final day of the Kyushu Basho on Sunday, November 26, a result that gave the Emperor's Cup to Mongolian ozeki Kirishima.

In the first of two featured bouts at Fukuoka Kokusai Center, No 8 maegashira Atamifuji came in low at the face-off, which allowed Kotonowaka to haul his opponent down and hand him his fourth loss. That eliminated him from the title chase.

Kyushu Basho
Kotonowaka conquers Atamifuji on Day 15. (KYODO)

Kotonowaka improved to 11-4 and was awarded the tournament's Fighting Spirit Prize.

In the final bout of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament, Kirishima (13-2) put the finishing touches on his second career top division championship when he dodged to his side and swatted down fellow ozeki Takakeisho.

Kyushu Basho
Kirishima moves in on a win over Takakeisho on Day 15. (KYODO)

Knowing Takakeisho is a classic pusher-thruster, Kirishima read his opponent like a book and used his superior athleticism to shift to his side after a bruising face-off and win his ninth straight bout and first title as an ozeki. 

"Even though I knew I had won, I was determined to stay focused," Kirishima said. "I wanted to win the tournament on a winning note. Last basho I was relegation-threatened and didn't perform that well so I was determined to do better this time out."

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Takakeisho, who came into the 15-day basho looking for promotion to yokozuna after winning the Autumn Basho, didn't come close. He finished with a disappointing 9-6 record.

Kyushu Basho
Kirishima addresses the Fukuoka Kokusai Center crowd after winning his second Emperor's Cup. (KYODO)

Kyushu Basho Success: A Step Toward Promotion for Kirishima

If Kirishima can win the New Year meet in January, he will be the one looking for promotion to sumo's highest rank and, with yokozuna Terunofuji hobbled by injury, sumo officials will be eager to find a new grand champion.

Kirishima also beat Atamifuji on the penultimate day of competition, which gave him a huge confidence boost heading into the final day.

"Many people cheered for me to do well at this basho so I'm very happy to get this title," Kirishima said. "I just tried to do what I needed to do. I was determined not be beaten by a younger wrestler like Atamifuji."

After getting his big win, Kirishima reflected on the past year and looked ahead to 2024.

"I became a new ozeki [and] I suffered an injury," Kirishima said. "But I came back and it turned out to be a wonderful year."

He added, "I will just do my best next year."

Kyushu Basho
A determined Hoshoryu closes out his Kyushu Basho campaign with a win over Daieisho. (ⒸSANKEI)

Hoshoryu Notches 10th Victory

In other major bouts, Mongolian ozeki Hoshoryu shoved out sekiwake Daieisho to pick up his 10th win against five losses for a respectable finish. Daieisho fell to 9-6.

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No 3 maegashira Takayasu thrust down veteran Tamawashi to close out his Kyushu campaign with a strong 10-5 record. Mongolian Tamawashi, a No 12 maegashira, finished at 9-6.

Top maegashira Ura secured a winning record on the final day when he broke free from an armlock by Hokuseiho. Ura then used a frontal push-down at the edge to improve 8-7. Seventh-ranked Hokuseiho dropped to 7-8.

With the impressive showing, Ura is a candidate to be promoted to the upper three sanyaku ranks for the next tournament.

Fourteenth-ranked maegashira Ichiyamamoto swatted down fellow rank-and-filer Kinbozan (8-7) to finish with an impressive record of 11-4. 

Top maegashira Asanoyama, who sat out the first seven days of the tournament due to injury, used a thrust-down technique to defeat Abi for his fourth win against four losses.

It was a disappointing tournament for komusubi Abi, who won this basho in 2022 and finished with a subpar 6-9 record.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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