Hakuho seized a record-extending 44th top-level championship Sunday after outlasting fellow yokozuna Kakuryu at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament. The two Mongolian-born grand champions came into Day 15 tied for the lead at 12-2, setting up a tantalizing winner-take-all battle in the final bout of the meet at Edion Arena Osaka.
Following a false start from Hakuho, Kakuryu gained an early advantage thanks to a shallow belt grip, but the all-time great countered with a belt grip of his own. After repositioning his feet, Hakuho muscled his opponent over the straw for a frontal force-out that denied Kakuryu (12-3) a seventh Emperor’s Cup.
The 15-day tournament, however, will be remembered as the first in sumo history to be held in an empty arena after spectators were locked out due to the coronavirus pandemic.