Abi stands as last hurdle for Terunofuji

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yokozuna Terunofuji, right, forces out sekiwake Mitakeumi on Friday in Day 13 of the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Having only returned to the top division after more than a year’s absence, No. 15 maegashira Abi is now the lone man standing between yokozuna Teru-nofuji and a sixth career title.

Abi shoved out ozeki Takakeisho in a showdown of wrestlers with 11-1 records on Friday at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka, leaving him one win behind Terunofuji after the yokozuna defeated sekiwake Mitakeumi to remain undefeated.

Abi, who has already chalked up a career-best 12 victories in the makuuchi division, will try to keep his hopes alive for a first Emperor’s Cup when he faces Terunofuji in the final bout Saturday.

A victory by Terunofuji will clinch the championship for him with a day to spare.

Terunofuji improved to 13-0 with an uncomplicated win over sekiwake Mitakeumi (9-4). Terunofuji grabbed Mitakeumi’s belt from the front and easily marched him out of the ring.

In the feature match of the day, Abi and Takakeisho both launched shoving attacks, but a stiff-arm to Takakeisho’s throat straightened him up and put him on the defensive. As Abi pressed forward, Takakeisho twice tried to sidestep out of danger, but Abi kept up the pursuit and pushed him out of the ring.

Abi, a Saitama Prefecture native, had held the komusubi rank as recently as January last year.

But a three-tournament suspension for breaking coronvirus protocols last summer saw him slip down to the third-tier makushita division.

After consecutive titles at makushita, he needed just two tournaments in the juryo division to earn a return to the makuuchi division, capped by winning the juryo title in September.