SUMO | Three newly promoted wrestlers to challenge Terunofuji at Spring Basho

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Three newly promoted wrestlers will be in the spotlight as they seek to challenge lone yokozuna Terunofuji for the title at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, which kicks off Sunday, March 13 in Osaka.

Mitakeumi was promoted to sumo’s second-ranked ozeki after going 13-2 and beating Terunofuji on the final day of the New Year’s tournament in January to win his third Emperor’s Cup.

Mitakeumi, who was born to a Japanese father and a Filipino mother in 1992, needed 28 tournaments as a sekiwake or komusubi before his third major tournament championship earned him promotion to ozeki.

At 29 years and one month, Mitakeumi will be the sixth oldest wrestler to debut at No. 2 in sumo.

Wrestler Dewanoumi, who relies primarily on thrusting and thrusting moves, will be eager to kick off his Exalted Rank debut with a winning performance.

“We can expect Mitakeumi to be the top contender in the Spring Tournament,” NHK said sumo announcer Hiro Morita. “If he wins the March tournament, he will enter the May tournament as a yokozuna candidate, so he will be laser-focused to win this championship.”

He joins two underachieving wrestlers in Shodai and Takakeisho at ozeki rank.
Shodai had a disastrous 6-9 record in the New Year’s meeting and will need to post a winning record this time around to maintain his rank.

Takakeisho, also facing a possible demotion, went 1-3 before being forced out through injury in the January encounter.

“Takakeisho is from Hyogo Prefecture, so Osaka is like a hometown for him,” Morita said. “So he will try to redeem himself after the debacle of the previous encounter and will have the support of his hometown fans.”

Abi in search of the first title

Rising star Abi enters the March tournament as a newly promoted sekiwake.

Abi’s career in the former Japanese sport was on the ropes in 2020 when he offered to retire after it was revealed he had repeatedly breached coronavirus protocols.

Instead of quitting sumo. Abi served a three-tournament suspension that forced him to restart his third-tier makushita division career.

Before the suspension, Abi showed a lot of potential and reached the rank of komusubi in July 2019.

But he lost 10 fights from the makuuchi division for the first time in January 2020 and pulled out of the July encounter when his rule violation was exposed.

Abi returned to action in March 2021 as makushita #56. He went undefeated in two seven-fight tournaments in that division, then earned re-promotion to the makuuchi division after going 24-6 in two outings as a second-tier juryo wrestler.

In his last three tournaments, Abi has gone 12-3 twice and 13-2 in the September 2021 tournament, more than enough to earn promotion.

“Since returning to makunouchi, he’s been a contender,” Morita said. “He knocked down Terunofuji with his trademark ‘tsuppari’ attack in the New Year’s Meet and he really wants to win his first tournament.”

Abi moved from maegashira No. 6 to sekiwake, where he is joined at No. 3 in the sport by another debutant at that rank, Wakatakakage, 27, who went 9-6 as maegashira No. 1 in January.

“I think Wakatakakage is the next candidate to become ozeki,” Morita said. “We expect him to keep rolling and putting in good numbers. He will be a serious challenger for the upper echelons of the sport, ozeki and yokozuna.

After missing out on his third straight title in the January encounter, Terunofuji will be out for revenge.

“Terunofuji seeks revenge,” Morita said. “The man who dashed his hopes of three straight titles was Mitakeumi, so he wants to redeem himself.”

Morita pointed out that Terunofuji appeared injured in the second week of the New Year’s tournament when he lost three of his last four fights.

The grand champion’s performance in the first week of the tournament will indicate whether he is fully recovered.

Terunofuji has struggled with knee injuries for the past few years and appeared to lose stamina in the second half of the New Year’s Eve encounter.

Author: Jim Armstrong

Follow Jim’s Daily Sumo Reports Spring Basho here and find it on the JAPAN Forward sports website, SportsLook.