This is the third, or turd in my mother tongue, and final trip back into history at some awesome fights that were. Be sure to check out the first two if you haven’t already (links below).
This was a great year for the construction industry here in Japan. It was the year the Great Seto Bridge opened, the Seikan Tunnel joined Honshu and Hakkaido by rail, and construction of the Tokyo Dome was completed. I assume many of you were born then, though perhaps only a few of you were here in Japan. It was the very last year of emperor Showa reign, Showa 63, what you and me might refer to as 1988.
The Natsu basho was held from May 8 to 22. The banzuke was headed by an impressive 3 yokozuna, Hokutoumi, Onokuni and Chiyonofuji. There were 4 ozeki, Asahifuji who took the jun-yusho, Konishiki “The Dump Truck” from Hawaii, and Hokutenyu and Asashio who both dropped out during the first 2 days. Down at M7 was a rikishi by the name of Itai Keisuke. Itai held the record for most consecutive victories from entry into sumo (26 straight wins) from 1975 until it was matched by Tochiazuma in 1995 and then broken by Jōkōryū in 2012, with 27 wins. But Itai will always be known for his claims of yaocho or match-fixing that he and many others were involved in.
As mentioned in the last post, Kirishima Kazuhiro (霧島 一博) holds the record for the slowest ever promotion to ozeki, at 91 tournaments. Hailing from Kagoshima prefecture, he was skilled wrestler but he lacked physical mass and as a result found himself rising and falling on the banzuke like waves in the ocean. He did go on to win win 2 gold stars, both from defeating Yokozuna Onokuni. He was known as “The Japanese Hercules” because he was built like a shit brick house, and was able to throw people like Konishiki. Hercules tipped the scales at around 117kg. And his career record against Konishiki, who weighed over 250kg, was 20-20!
Born in Ibaraki, Mitoizumi Masayuki (水戸泉 眞幸) was discovered by Takamiyama. He was passionate about sumo and his 6 kanto-sho or Fighting Spirit prizes, just one short of Kaiketsu (above), are testament to that. He wasn’t one to give up easily, and as a result of that he often, and I mean OFTEN got injured. Throughout his career he would sit out a total of 10 basho due to injury, mainly due to a lingering knee injury. And in one fight against Yokozuna Onokuni, caused him another nasty knee injury. That slow motion replay is nasty…
He was known for the amount of salt he throw, it was his trademark. And he earned himself the nickname the “Salt Shaker”
Ok so on to the action. This fight is from Day 1 of the Natsu (May) Basho. The location is at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, which had opened its doors 3 years earlier.
At the tachi-ai the much smaller Kirishima seemed to hop forward and then wait for the much bigger Mitoizumi’s hit. Kiri got a right hand inside frontal grip, as Mitoi got an outside frontal grip, and broke Kiri’s, and drove forward rising his opponents centre of gravity. Kiri had a double inside belt less grip, and used everything he had to force Mitoi horizontally to decent the attack. This created a fraction of a second to allow him to prepare for fighting on the tawara. As Mitoizumu bulldozed forward Kirishima tried a last ditch twisting push down attempt. And both men fell off the dohyo. I was sure Mitoizumi won it easily, as was the gyoji, but the slow motion reply told a different story.
A mono-ii was called, and both men were deemed to have touched down outside the ring at exactly the same time. And they had to do it over again.
The second time round Kirishima tried a tachi-ai henka, but it didn’t work out as he planned. Mitoi reacted immediately and landing a nice harite to create the split second he needed to prepare for the second attack. Kirishima gained a deep double handed inside grip, and Mitoi was struggling with an overhand grip on the back of the blue belt. Kiri flicked his hips and broke that grip. He then tried to reverse and pull the much bigger man forward. Unfortunately for him though Mitoi’s loosely tied green belt wasn’t providing the leverage he desired. He now only had the left hand grip and was holding Mitoizumi back with a right hand on his shoulder. Mitoizumi now had a left hand grip however, so Kiri knew he needed to do something. He again pulled Mitoi forward, while spinning around, dropping his hips, and then drove forward. He kept himself very low and with a double hand inside grip powered forward. Mitoizumi in major trouble only had a grip on Kiri’s shoulders. So this time it was his turn to try the last ditch manoeuvre, twisting and lifting and Kiri around. Both men fell off the dohyo, and the gyoji pointed in Kirishima’s direction. But a hand was raised and a mono-ii was called.
They decided that this time both mens legs passed the level of the dohyo at the same time. And they would have to do it all over, again!
Kirishima came in low as Mitoizumi half landed a harite before getting a right hand outside grip, and then quickly a left hand inside. Kirishima only got a left hand inside. Mitoizumi wasted no time, he had an excellent chance. He turned and headed back towards his corner driving Kiri in front of him. At the tawara Kirishima managed to get the right hand outside grip and lift the 168 kg Mitoizumi off the ground while half twisting him around. Kirishima was inside the dohyo with Mitoizumi in the air with all his weight heading straight Hercules’s direction, but somehow twisted enough and kept his feet inside the ring until….. both men crashed in a heap of man mess off the dohyo. Then a shimpan raised his hand, and we had ourselves another mono-ii!
Mitoizumi’s leg touched the dohyo just before he fell off the dohyo and down onto the ground. But Kirishima’s hand passed the level of the dohyo at the exact same time! So for the first time in history, there was a third torinaoshi or rematch.
At this, the fourth tachi-ai, Mitoizumi again led with a right hand harite to Kiri’s face. He musta been getting tired of that! Kiri got the right grip, as Mitoi got the left, and stretched for the right. Kirishima knew he couldn’t let him have the double grip though, so broke it with some hip movements that would arouse de Gama. Kiri then tried to keep some distance, but it didn’t take bit bigger Mitoi to force his was in. This time Kiri’s attempt to break the grip actually gave up a deeper grip, and he was in trouble. Now as Motoi made his move, Kiri dropped his hips down low, so low that his ass was lower than his knees, and tried to right shift the Salt Shaker. He was down low too though, and his legs wide enough to get a free drink from Bertrum. Kirishima then lifted Mitoizuna, who was still 168 kg, and tried to turn. Mitoi had all his weight on Kiri and had some momentum in his favour too. Kiri took 4 steps backwards with all that weight, before turning at the last minute, and both men crash out together! Or did they?
Breaths were held as the crowd watched the shimpan’s hands. But like Johnson’s Johnson they didn’t raise. The slow motion replays showed that Kirishima’s arm touched the dirt a fraction of a second before Mitoizuna’s knee. They gyoji had made the correct call, though no one would have faulted a shimpan for calling another mono-ii. What a fight!
An interesting point to the end was that after both men bowed to each other, Mitoizuma who had actually won, walked off thinking he had lost, and had to be directed back to take the prize money!
Kirishima went on to lose his next 2 fights and finish the tournament with a 7-8 losing record.
Mitoizuna went on to win the next three and finished with a 9-6 winning record, and was awarded the kanto-sho or Fighting Spirit prize.