Mongolian-born Yokozuna Hakuho extended his career championship haul to 42 on Sunday after winning the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, the final tourney of Japan’s Heisei era, with a record 15th undefeated run.
Needing a win against fellow Mongolian Yokozuna Kakuryu to avoid a championship playoff, Hakuho D.Davaajargal was pushed to the limit in a long battle. Although Hakuho let Kakuryu shove him backward, both wrestlers secured double belt holds, preventing either man from ending it quickly.
Hakuho broke the stalemate by thrusting his right knee inside Kakuryu’s left leg and used that leverage to lift Kakuryu off his feet before tipping him over for an underarm throw.
“I entered sumo at the tournament in Osaka and now I’m here as we ring out the end of the Heisei era, so Osaka has a special place in my heart,” Hakuho said after the last grand tournament during the reign of Japan’s Emperor Akihito.
“I entered sumo in the 13th year of the Heisei era. I am a creature of this era. Nine years ago in Nagoya, I received a letter from the emperor. This Heisei era means everything to me.”
Hakuho thanked his family and supporters for helping him come back from leg surgery in October and at the end led the Edion Arena Osaka crowd in a traditional “tejime” clapping cheer to mark the end of the era, which will close when the 85-year-old emperor abdicates on April 30.
The victory over Kakuryu was Hakuho’s 41st in 48 career matchups with his compatriot. They had not fought each other since September, when Hakuho won his last title — also with a 15-0 record.