It’s Day 2 of the Osaka Basho and already things are in high gear. With four yokozuna, and Hakuho having called them out to try to all have perfect records over the first ten days, I don’t think anyone foresaw yesterday’s performances.
First of all, Hakuho himself losing in the final match against a young up-and-comer is pretty shocking, but Harumafuji ALSO lost, to just-lost-his-ozeki-rank Kotoshogiku. What’s more Kakuryu looked very shaky in his win over Mitakeumi, so the only yokozuna who looked strong and confident was the newly promoted Kisenosato.
Meanwhile, kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] Terunofuji looked strong in his opening match. Word before the tournament was that he still had both knee and arm injuries that were bothering him, but if he can put in a strong performance it could be just what he needs to get past the struggles he’s faced over the past year.
I have a feeling this is going to be a wild, unpredictable tournament, with a strong pack of dark horses staying in or one-off the lead deep into the second week. If so, there will be a lot of interesting things to discuss here on the blog over the coming fortnight. In the meanwhile, though, let’s look at the Day 2 action.
M13 Daishomaru (1–0) vs. M12 Ura (1–0)—Ura had a pretty good start to his Makuuchi Division career yesterday. He’s one of the rikishi that everyone in the sumo world is talking about, so let’s see how he does on Day 2. (1:05)
M10 Tochinoshin (0–1) vs. M11 Ishiura (0–1) Tochinoshin’s right leg is taped from mid-thigh all the way down to the bottom of his calf, and yesterday he STILL looked like he could barely stand on it. Today he faces Ishiura, who is someone the big Georgian can easily pick up and move around IF he can get his hands on him. That’s easier said than done, because Ishiura is speedy and nimble. (1:11)
M9 Kotoyuki (1–0) vs. M8 Okinoumi (0–1)—Kotoyuki has been interesting to watch over the last year or so. Whenever he’s ranked in the middle of the banzuke [ranking sheet], as he is now at M9, he seems to put on a pretty dominant performance. But whenever he gets to the top of the banzuke, the more experienced rikishi there generally know how to handle him. His opponent today, M8 Okinoumi, is a rikishi who BELONGS at the top of the banzuke … so it should be interesting to see how they match up today. (1:35)
Sekiwake Kotoshogiku (1–0) vs. M2 Takanoiwa (0–1)—Kotoshogiku had a good start to his campaign to be reinstated as an ozeki with yesterday’s win over yokozuna Harumafuji. He looked as strong and confident as he did in January 2016 when he won the yusho [tournament championship], but then one ALWAYS puts one’s best foot forward when facing a yokozuna. A better test for how strong he’s feeling is today’s match against Takanoiwa, (4:05)
Ozeki Goeido (1–0) vs. sekiwake Takayasu (1–0)—I’m still having a hard time taking Goeido seriously as the “reliable ozeki.” Despite his perfect record in September, he’s only had double-digit wins in one other basho while fighting at this rank. He seems to have all the pieces he needs to be a reliable ozeki, but he only puts them together about 50% of the time . . . and that’s just not good enough. The body is strong, but the spirit is unreliable. On the other hand, his opponent today has put together double digit winning records four times in the last year and seems to be making a real run at a possible promotion to ozeki. The question is, whose spirit will be stronger today? (4:40)
Komusubi Shodai (1–0) vs. yokozuna Kisenosato (1–0)—Kisenosato started off his first basho at sumo’s highest rank with a strong win yesterday, even while his fellow yokozuna struggled (and two of them actually lost) in their matches. His opponent today is Shodai, who beat Hakuho on Day 1 and is certainly on the hunt for another win over a yokozuna to add to his collection. (6:15)