Terunofuji fends off inspired Abi to clinch Kyushu title

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yokozuna Terunofuji defeats No. 15 maegashira Abi on Saturday to win the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament.

Yokozuna Terunofuji clinched his second straight title and sixth overall by fighting off an inspired No. 15 maegashira Abi on Saturday to win the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament with a day to spare.

“It’s a relief,” said Terunofuji, who takes a 14-0 record into the final day of the tournament at the Fukuoka Koku-sai Center.

“Nothing changes about what I have to do. It’s just up to me to give it my all.”

In the first career meeting between the two, Abi exploded from the jump-off and pushed Terunofuji back to the edge, leaving the tournament’s lone yokozuna precariously perched with his heels against the edge.

But with the determination that propelled him to the top rank, Terunofuji held his ground. When Abi reversed direction and tried to pull the Mongolian down, the maegashira lost his footing and tumbled to the dirt.

“To stop his momentum, I had to try to straighten him up as much as I could,” Terunofuji said.

For Abi, now 12-2, the tournament marks a remarkable turn of fortunes. Last summer, he was caught breaking coronavirus protocols and had actually submitted his resignation to the Japan Sumo Association.

The association refused it, instead slapping him with a three-tournament ban that also meant a drop to the third-tier makuuchi division for the former komusubi.

He worked his way back up through the ranks and was making his first appearance in the uppermost makuuchi division in more than a year in Fukuoka.

In other action, Takakeisho came out on top over Shodai in a clash between the two ozeki, gaining the advantage from the jump-off and swiftly bulling him out of the ring.

Takakeisho, who was eliminated from title contention with his loss Friday to Abi, improved to 12-2, while Shodai dropped to 9-5.

Sekiwake Mitakeumi, in his third straight tournament at sumo’s third-highest rank, secured double-digit wins for the first time by slapping down veteran No. 6 maegashira Tamawashi to improve to 10-4.

The other sekiwake, Meisei (6-8), halted the hot run of tricky No. 7 maegashira Ura, fending off his attempt to grab a leg before pushing him out. Ura dropped to 10-4.

A tough tournament for the two komusubi, who were already doomed to demotion, got worse when both Ichinojo and Kiribayama were dealt their ninth losses.

No. 12 Hokutofuji pressed forward against Ichinojo, then stepped aside and let gravity do the rest as the 206-kilogram Mongolian went down to defeat. Kiribayama followed by being forced out by No. 5 maegashira Hoshoryu.

In earlier action, No. 7 juryo Oho, the 21-year-old grandson of legendary yokozuna Taiho, picked up his 10th win as he moves closer to what would no doubt be a highly publicized debut in the makuuchi division.