Asashoryu Now 24-0

It’s now just over halfway through the Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament, and Asashoryu has taken sole possession of the lead, but Fukuoka favorite Kaio is just one loss behind.

OSAKA (Kyodo) Yokozuna Asashoryu unleashed his fury on Kokkai to maintain his lead with an unblemished record at the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament on Monday.

Asashoryu had little problem absorbing the burly fourth-ranked maegashira’s charge before slapping him forward onto the ring’s surface to improve to a spotless 9-0 at Osaka Municipal Gymnasium. Kokkai, who hails from the Soviet former republic of Georgia, slipped to 5-4.

Asashoryu, who is the odds-on favorite to win his 11th Emperor’s Cup after taking the New Year’s title with a perfect 15-0 record, improved his winning streak to 24. Ozeki Kaio stayed hot in pursuit of the yokozuna at 8-1.

Last year, the Mongolian grand champion won five of six tournaments and appears to be on another roll in 2005.

UPDATE, Day 13 – Ozeki Tochiazuma ended Asashoryu’s winning streak at 27-0 and postposed the yokozuna’s chance to clinch the Osaka Grand Sumo Tournament for at least one more day. He would have to lose the final two bouts for anyone else to have a chance to tie his record and force a deciding match-up.

UPDATE, Day 14 – Sure enough, Asashoryu won his very next bout to clinch the tournament at 13-1. His next closest competitor was Tamanoshim, at 11-3. His final bout won’t matter–except to start another winning streak. Russian rookie Roho has made a very respectable showing at 10-4, but the Bulgarian Kotooshu was a lousy 3-11 going into the final day, while the Korean Kasugao had a nightmare tournament, managing only one win in 14 days.

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