Ozeki Takakeisho was battered and bloodied but prevailed for a hard-fought win over Nishikifuji on Sunday, January 15 to maintain a share of the lead at the midway point of the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament.
Takakeisho and fourth-ranked maegashira Nishikifuji (3-5) bonked heads at the face-off in the day's final bout at Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Things didn't get any prettier from there as the two exchanged a series of violent shoves to the head and upper body that left Takakeisho bleeding from the mouth.
The highest-ranked wrestler in the tournament, Takakeisho eventually won when he swatted down his opponent to improve to 7-1, which kept him in a tie for the lead with rank-and-filer Kotoshoho.
Daieisho is one of seven wrestlers at 6-2 in the 15-day tournament.
Kotoshoho Improves to 7-1
Hoshoryu had looked impressive earlier in the tournament but after two losses on Day 5 and 6, he resorted to a henka shifting move on Sunday that is frowned upon by many in sumo.
Abi Suffers Third Straight Loss
Kiribayama improved to 5-3. No. 3 maegashira Abi lost his third straight and also stands at 5-3.
Former ozeki Shodai, who needed at least 10 wins in the New Year Basho, dropped to 2-6. Even if he wins all of his remaining seven bouts he would fall short.
Shodai's only path to regaining ozeki status would be to put together three straight winning records with about 33 wins. Given his poor results of late, that seems like a tall order.
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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 here.