We’ve had a fascinating start to this July basho – taking place in Tokyo’s Kokugikan arena. Now, with the completion of the 8th day of Sumo, it is time to reflect on the first half of the tournament and highlight a few surprises and upsets, along with an update on the Yūshō contention race.
Kakuryu out from July basho
After the first day of action in this July tournament, Yokozuna Kakuryu withdrew from the competition after aggravating an injury (obtained through training during lockdown), during his opening day bout against Maegashira #1, Endo.
Kakuryu achieved 12 wins and 3 losses in the March 2020 basho (also held in the Kokugikan) and would have been looking to contend for the Yūshō in this tournament had he not withdrawn. His current scoring for the July tournament stands at 0 wins, 2 losses, and 6 days absence.
Watch Kakuryu vs Endo here:
Endo’s tournament got off to an excellent start by defeating Kakuryu, however, his luck quickly turned sour after failing to win any of the following 5 bouts. It is important to note that Endo had an incredibly difficult opening lineup for this tournament; having to fight both: Yokozuna, Ozeki and Sekiwake rikishi in the first 6 days of play. Regardless of the renown his higher ranked opponents currently enjoy, losses against: Asanoyama, Hakuho, Takakeisho, Mitakeumi and Shodai would have knocked his confidence whilst progressing through this tournament. Endo did eventually find some respite from the earlier onslaught when he was paired against his fellow Maegashira #1 Yutakayama on day 7, winning by hatakikomi (slap down).
Smallest vs Largest: Enho vs Aoiyama
Here is an interesting matchup; according to official statistics, Enho stands at 169.0cm tall and weighs just 96.0kg. In stark contrast to Enho, Aoiyama stands at 192.0cm tall and weighs 194.0kg!
The enormous difference in size provides an interesting tactical play from both wrestlers; A usual tactic for Enho in these situations is to get low enough to block his opponent from simply getting a left and right hand mawashi (belt) grip while in an upright position (a technique suitable for Aoiyama, considering the size difference), thereby simply lifting the small rikishi out of the ring – as seen in Enho’s January 2020 bout vs Tochinoshin. The day 4 bout in this July basho proved that Enho’s speed and agility can now be relied on against rikishi who are an order of magnitude bigger than he.
Enho had only been paired against the rikishi from Bulgaria once before and that was in the November 2019 basho; they met on day 5 with both wrestlers bringing a 3 wins and 1 loss tournament record into the bout.
Kotonowaka absent through injury from Day 8
Kotonowaka has withdrawn from the July basho after sustaining a left knee injury during his day 7 bout against the Brazilian wrestler, Kaisei. This meant he lost by default to Tochinoshin today and will be officially removed from the match-ups for day 9. It is unclear whether Kotonowaka will return to this series, however, his oyakata told Japan Times that “the 22-year-old may return to the tournament should he recover”.
Kotonowaka ends day 8 with a 4 wins and 4 losses record while Tochinoshin moves to 5 wins and 3 losses.
Mitakeumi dropped out of the front-running for the July Yūshō race after losing to fellow Sekiwake Shodai. Both rikishi are now level with 7 wins and 1 loss and both will fight lower ranked opponents on day 9. Although the two wrestlers have suffered defeats, neither are out of contention for the championship so long as they can minimise their losses.
Leading the way for the championship are Hakuho and Asanoyama, with both men scoring a perfect record of 8 wins and 0 losses so far.
On Day 9, Hakuho will face Maegashira #4 Aoiyama while Asanoyama will fight Komusubi Okinoumi. Hakuho has a 22-1 winning record against Aoiyama – after securing his most recent victory in March 2020 – and will look to extend his lead to 23-1 after their bout tomorrow.
Asanoyama has fought Okinoumi 9 times before and won 8 – the most recent being on day 1 in the March 2020 basho.