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SUMO: 2017 Kyushu Basho (Day 11)

It’s Day 11 of the Kyushu Basho and yokozuna Hakuho maintains a two-win lead over his nearest competition. Hakuho is 10–0, while the number of 8–2 rikishi has dropped to two—M3 Hokutofuji and M12 Okinoumi.

The tournament isn’t quite at the point where Hakuho’s victory is assured, but we have arrived at the juncture where it will take some surprising turns of fate to make this a competitive race for the yusho [tournament championship]. The biggest active question is whether or not Hakuho is going to be able to pull off another zensho-yusho [perfect record championship]. If he does, that will mean that in 2017 he will have won three of the six honbasho [grand tournaments], and that his record in those winning efforts would be a collective 44 wins out of 45 matches.

Interestingly, despite being mostly absent for one of the 2017 tournaments, and completely absent from another one, Hakuho STILL is in the running to most wins for the year. He started the Kyushu Basho with 42 wins, trailing only four rikishi—Harumafuji (47), Mitakeumi (45), Takayasu (44), and Takakeisho (43)—and he has already passed them all to take the lead. The current totals (as of the end of Day 10) are: Hakuho (52), Takayasu & Mitakeumi (51), Takakeisho (50) . . . just another form of competition for you to keep track of as we wind toward the end of the 2017 sumo campaign.

But in the main competition, here are the best bouts from Day 11.

M12 Okinoumi (8–2) vs. M12 Kagayaki (6–4)—This should be a good match. Two big rikishi who struggled near the top of the banzuke [ranking sheet] but have regained their confidence here in the lower half of the Division. Okinoumi has gotten his kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and so will get promoted next basho, and is one of the second-place competitors hoping that Hakuho will somehow slip up . . . twice. Kagayaki, hasn’t gotten his kachi-koshi yet, but he seems well positioned to do so if he keeps performing well. Only one of them, though, will notch their next win today. (0:35)
M9 Endo (7–3) vs. M15 Nishikigi (5–5)—Endo seems to have found the remedy for whatever has been ailing him through most of 2017. He’s looked strong and quick, and made some clever moves in the ring. One more win and he’ll get his kachi-koshi and jump back into the upper section of the Maegashira ranks to begin 2018. On the other hand, Nishikigi is still struggling, even at the bottom of the banzuke. He must win three of his final five matches in order to avoid demotion into Juryo to start the new year. (2:45)
M4 Ichinojo (7–3) vs. ozeki Takayasu (7–3)—Two rikishi on the verge of kachi-koshi. However, Ichinojo will have to put in more of an effort than he did yesterday against Hakuho. Just being big isn’t near enough to win against the top-rankers. I haven’t mentioned it much, but the fact of the matter is that Takayasu is kadoban [threatened with ozeki demotion] this basho. The reason I haven’t been talking about it is that he’s been putting in a pretty solid ozeki performance and his kachi-koshi has never really seemed in doubt. Of course, he hasn’t been nearly as impressive as he was in the tournaments leading up to his promotion. If he wants to look like a REAL champion, then he’ll have to handle Ichinojo as matter-of-factly as Hakuho did yesterday. If he does, he’ll erase his kadoban status AND take the first real step on his quest for his final promotion. (11:00)
Ozeki Goeido (7–3) vs. M3 Hokutofuji (8–2)—Goeido’s loss to Mitakeumi yesterday showed once again is feet of clay. He’d better snap up his kachi-koshi quickly or he’ll be heading into his weekend showdowns with Takayasu and Hakuho still needing an eighth win. On the other hand, Hokutofuji has had a great tournament, already securing his majority of wins AND being the other rikishi most-directly trailing Hakuho. (11:40)
Sekiwake Yoshikaze (5–5) vs. yokozuna Hakuho (10–0)—Yoshikaze always brings his A-Game when he faces Hakuho, not that it generally does him much good. He’s only ever beaten the yokozuna once in sixteen tries, but he never looks intimidated, he comes out swinging and driving forward for all he’s worth. Still, the only time Hakuho wasn’t able to handle that handily was a day before he went kyujo due to leg injury. (13:25)

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