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SUMO: Haru Basho 2016 (Day 2)

Holy cats! What a wild start to the Osaka tournament! With two of the three yokozuna losing on Day 1, it seems like pretty much ANYTHING could happen! All four of the ozeki looked strong, from defending yusho champion Kotoshogiku through the two kadoban [threatened with demotion], injured Terunofuji and perennial sad-sack Goeido.

Despite dire warnings, it seems that Kintamayama has come through with a video today (though the next couple of days remain uncertain). Remember, if you’re enjoying these videos it’d be nice if you considered dropping a donation in his online tip jar.

In today’s action, all the rikishi still seem really revved up and ready to go. Lots of genki [spirited] sumo up and down the banzuke [ranking sheet], so you can’t go wrong watching the whole shebang. However, my top matches of the day are:

Hidenoumi vs. Amuru—Amuru (M11) is a lean Russian rikishi who shows a lot of ring savvy and irrepressible determination, but doesn’t have what it takes physically to compete near the top of the banzuke. Once he gets above M6 or so, his opponents start throwing him around like a vicious rag doll. At M11 this basho, though, he is in his element, and should come through with a strong record . . . probably strong enough to get him sent back up to be devoured by wolves in May. His opponent today is Hidenoumi (M12) who is only in his third ever basho in the Makuushi division. M12 is his highest rank ever, so the jury is still out on where his level will be, but he’s looked strong so far. (You can see this match at 2:05 on the video.)

Ikioi vs. Kyokushuho—Ikioi (M4) is one of the still relatively young (29) Japanese rikishi who seems to have a real shot at becoming a superstar. In the last few basho he’s really shown improved power and technique. If he keeps this up he could find himself back in sanyaku again later this year, and if he keeps improving there’s a real possibility he could make a convincing run at ozeki in 2017. Meanwhile, Kyokushuho (M5) is a solid mid-Maegashira rikishi who’s got a lot of talent but hasn’t ever really put it all together for 15 days in a row. If he ever does, he’ll be someone to reckon with. (6:00)

Tochinoshin vs. Toyonoshima—This has the makings of a terrific bout. Tochinoshin (M2) is the big bear of a Georgian rikishi who is recovering from a knee injury. His big weakness generally has been underperforming during the middle weekend of a basho, so he should still be in his element now AND he’s got a lot to prove. Today he faces sekiwake Toyonoshima, who finished tied for second in January, and who beat yokozuna Kakuryu on Day 1. Tochinoshin is physically a match for him, but Toyonoshima is clever and quicker than he looks. (7:10)

Aoiyama vs. Terunofuji—Over the past year, I haven’t been terribly impressed with Aoiyama (M3). The Bulgarian seems like another big, doughy rikishi who wins more because of his size than any particular skill. But last basho he showed a spark of inspiration and tactical sumo I’d not seen from him before. I haven’t fully changed my mind about him yet, but I’m interested to see what tricks he’s got. And he’s going to need some tricks today because he’s fighting ozeki Terunofuji who is pretty much his equal in size and weight . . . an he’s got the added pressure of being kadoban after sitting out most of January because of knee injuries. This is another big man, power sumo challenge for the ozeki to see if he’s really back to full fighting form. (8:45)

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