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SUMO: 2018 Natsu Basho (Day 2)

It’s Day 2 of the Natsu Basho, and the most unusual thing (compared to recent tournaments) is that nothing particularly unusual happened on Day 1. There weren’t any major upsets, all the sanyaku rikishi looked good, with only komusubi Endo notching a loss (but then, he was fighting yokozuna Kakuryu, so that was to be expected). 

Sekiwake Tochinoshin, who is trying to earn a promotion to ozeki, looked particularly strong, lifting M2 Shohozan off his feet and out of the ring to get win number one. There was some worry that Tochinoshin’s shoulder might be a bit injured, but that certainly didn’t seem to be the case (or at least it didn’t interfere with his exhibition of raw power sumo). 

Hakuho also looked good, this being his basho match since Day 4 in January. He’s still having to worry a bit about the Kyokai’s [Sumo Association’s] admonition about being less brutal at the tachi-ai [initial charge]. In 2017 Hakuho had developed a habit of hitting opponents hard with slaps to the face followed by shoulder thrusts to the jaw (which on more than one occasion knocked an opponent into near unconsciousness). There’s nothing illegal about these maneuvers, but they aren’t considered to be “classic sumo,” and the Kyokai often discourages yokozuna from being so brutal. Yesterday, Hakuho gave M1 Tamawashi a good slap to the head at the tachi-ai, but then moved into more standard pushing/thrusting sumo. 

Sekiwake Ichinojo lived up to the pre-basho hype and looked focused and enthusiastic. He has a long history of performing dull, plodding sumo and relying on his massive size to dominate his opponents. This, of course, rarely worked against the top-level rikishi, so Ichinojo has been languishing in the mid-Maegashira ranks for most of the last year or more. But last tournament he seemed to have a breakthrough and earned a promotion up to sumo’s third-highest rank. The hope is that he’ll continue that kind of performance this tournament, and begin to be a regular contender for the yusho [tournament championship].

M16 Aminishiki (0–1) vs. M15 Kyokutaisei (0–1)—After a basho down in Juryo, Aminishiki is back in the top division at the age of 39, making him the oldest rikishi ever to earn that promotion. His physical skills may be visibly diminishing, but his ring sense, cleverness, and overall sumo savvy remain as sharp as ever. Today he faces Kyokutaisei who at the age of 28 has just been promoted to Makuuchi for the first time in his career. (0:41)
M3 Yutakayama (0–1) vs. komusubi Endo (0–1)—Endo is at the highest rank of his career, breaking into the sanyaku ranks for the first time. He lost his match yesterday to yokozuna Kakuryu, but that’s to be expected. If he can beat his non-sanyaku opponents, he’ll collect a kachi-koshi [majority of wins] and stay up in these lofty ranks. Today is his first chance to make a move in that direction. (10:35)
Sekiwake Tochinoshin (1–0) vs. M2 Abi (0–1)—Tochinoshin is on the hunt for a promotion to ozeki. In order to do that, he’s got to rack up at least 11 wins, so I’ll be following him closely this basho as long as that dream is still alive. Today he faces one of the young phenoms, Abi, who has been 10–5 in both of his previous Makuuchi-level tournaments. (11:40)
Komusubi Mitakeumi (1–0) vs. Yokozuna Hakuho (1–0)—Another match that pits one of the best of the next-generation rikishi—Mitakeumi—against one of the best of the current generation. In this case, the very best of the generation (and perhaps all-time), Yokozuna Hakuho. (15:05)

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