Tomorrow begins the Osaka basho. This marks the first time that Hakuho has been ranked West Yokozuna since Kyushu 2009. Takanohana oyakata officially named the next ozeki candidate. We have some keiko reports to get through, some words about the lower ranks, some chat about what we should expect this basho, and some wild(read:wrong) speculation as to who will fair well in March. So grab a smoke, and a few drams, and let’s talk Haru Basho.
First up we got Harumafuji and Hakuho. Although Haruma has the leg up recently, I (and most others) will stick with the assertion that Hakuho is the better rikishi. Let’s look at numbers as they relate to Osaka. Since 2008 Harumafuji’s raw numbers look like this 39-21, Hakuho is at 55-5. That is over 4 basho (2011 Osaka basho being cancelled), Hakuho has 2 yusho in those 4 and Harry has none. So a raw numbers glance shows this one sewn up for Hakuho. However, as we have seen recently, Haruma has stepped up his game significantly, so that needs to be taken into account. Ever since Hak’s winning streak was snapped we have been seeing more chinks in his armor. So both of those things are in Haruma’s favor. However, Haruma does have a bit of pain in his ankles, and is prone to injury. This one is a toss up for me. I, as always, am gonna bet on Hakuho, but root for Harumafuji.
Our ozeki are pretty much as usual, Kise has showed some promise in keiko reports, despite a split brow that needed 3 stitches caused by Haruma, and surely wants to get a yusho, but how much does he want it. He has been the only ozeki really performing on an ozeki level of late. He’s got a yusho in him, the question is when will the stars align? Kotoshogiku is physically healthy, but mentally distracted with the break-up of his recent engagement. He’s always been prone to psyche out, perhaps he’s done the job himself this time.
Kakuryu, didn’t fair so well in keiko against Haruma, but otherwise has looked decent, I think we’ll get a decent performance out of duck-face this basho. I will begin to talk about Kotooshu when there is something worth talking about.
Sekiwake Goeido has been named by Takanohana as the next ozeki candidate, snubbing fellow sekiwake and former ozeki Baruto. While its true that Eido does bring more grit to his hometown bashos, something tells me he will not get the required 14 wins to secure the nod. We’d be more likely to see a Kise yusho. When Eido is on he’s good to go, but he is not consistently on enough to warrant promotion, methinks. Bart is looking strong from keiko reports, his chronic knee injury is a self proclaimed “not so bad.” We should see a good performance if this prognosis is indeed true.
Komusubis Aminishiki and Tochiozan are both solid rikishi who had good bashos in January with wins over ozeki. However they are both a bit unpredictable, in both a good and bad sense. They should be interesting to watch this time out.
The M1-4 ranks are going to be the most interesting this basho, if you ask me. Takayasu, Myogiryu, Tochinoshin, Chiyotairyu, Ikoi, and Shohozan fall into this category and will surely be fun to watch. Most notably Chiyotairyu had a good keiko session with Hakuho, picking up a few wins over the dai-yokozuna. Yogi will do his best to bounce back to sanyaku. Ikioi is also an Osaka native and will surely give it his all. It hasn’t been since back in 2010 when we saw Tochinoshin performing this well, and it will be interesting to see if he can hang in at joii again. Takayasu has been getting better and better, but he’s never secured a KK at this high a rank, so we’ll see if he can finally work out the kinks.
Some other guys who will be interesting to watch this time out are Okinoumi, Kitataiki, Takarafuji, Masunoyama, and new comers Oiwato, and Sotairyu. I have been watching Sotairyu for quite some time, and if he can keep his stamina up for the full 15 days, he might just hang in at makuuchi.
Unfortunately Wakanosato has a knee injury that will keep him from competing, effectively demoting him to juryo. Homasho (currently J1) is also injured and will likely be at the bottom of juryo for next basho.
Homasho aside,we have a few exciting guys to watch in juryo, Daikiho is recovering from a detached retina, and may or may not begin on day 1, but should be interesting to watch. Chiyootori had some decent keiko with Hakuho, even beating him a few times, and should do well. Takanoiwa (first sekitori from Takanohana beya) is making waves of late and should be a good watch. Takanoyama is always great to watch and Miyabiyama will be fighting his damnedest to keep himself in a mawashi.
Down in Makushita we have a new Tsukedashi Ms10, Endo. He picked up numerous titles at Nihon University and was allowed to make his debut from this rank. S&S favorite Osunaarashi ranks in at Ms23E, and with a perfect 7-0 with a yusho, he could possibly make it into juryo for Natsu. The top of makushita will be missing a few contenders as Shironoryu, Ryuden, and Masuraumi are all out with injury
Down to my predictions. Yusho, It will be Hakuho, Harumafuji, or Kisenosato. I think Takayasu will finally gel, as will Shohozan. Masunoyama is very under-ranked and can do quite well from M12, same goes for Okinoumi from M7. Tochinowaka might also score high. Myogiryu is in upper makuuchi now and so is eligible for more special prizes, might be some potential there.
Well, that’s all you get from me today, but stay tuned as there will be more content coming soon. I, myself, have a quadrumvirate of whisky reviews about to hit the fan. A note to our readers, we will be playing around with our format this basho, and will offer our first bout report on day 5 summarizing the first 5 days of sumo. Then another on Nakabi summarizing days 6-8. one more report on day 10, then one report a day for the rest of the basho. Make sure to let us know your thoughts on this format. It you like it we may keep it, if you don’t we may bin it.