TOKYO: Mongolian-born yokozuna sumo grand champion Hakuho has submitted a request to retire, a Japan Sumo Association spokesperson revealed on Monday.
Although the 36-year-old sumo wrestler belonging to the Miyagino stable finished the Nagoya grand tournament in July undefeated to claim his record 45th tournament title, he has not fully recovered from injuries, including one to his right knee.
Hakuho, together with his fellow stablemates, missed the entire autumn grand tournament this month after wrestlers at the Miyagino stable tested positive for COVID-19.
Hakuho will be the first yokozuna to retire since Kakuryu, who announced his retirement in March. Hakuho is now expected to become a stable master after taking formal procedures.
After making his sumo debut in 2001, Hakuho became the 69th yokozuna at the age of 22, following the summer tournament held in May 2007. Helped by his outstanding reflexes and his grappling and pushing techniques, Hakuho collected championship titles one after another.
He was temporarily the only active yokozuna after Asashoryu retired in February 2010, serving as the very foundation of the sumo world during the time when the sport faced a hostile climate due to a series of scandals involving sumo wrestlers.
In 2010, Hakuho marked 63 consecutive wins, just shy of Futabayama’s record of 69 straight wins. He also achieved an all-time record of 86 wins in a calendar year for two years in a row.
In the January 2015 tournament, Hakuho won the title for the 33rd time, rewriting the record then held by Taiho.
At the 2017 Nagoya tournament, Hakuho’s career wins reached a record high of 1,048, surpassing those of Kaio.
He became the first wrestler ever to reach 1,000 wins in the makuuchi top division of professional sumo, during the autumn grand tournament in September 2018.
He obtained Japanese citizenship in September 2019.
Hakuho served as yokozuna for 84 tournaments and had more wins than losses in a tournament of the makuuchi division for 51 tournaments in a row, both the highest ever.
He won 1,187 matches, lost 247 and was absent from 253.
With Hakuho deciding to sit out many tournaments over the past few years, the Japan Sumo Association’s Yokozuna Deliberation Council, after the November tournament last year, issued a warning over his frequent absences.
After missing six consecutive tournaments, Hakuho clinched the title for this year’s Nagoya tournament, winning a tournament without a single loss for the 16th time.
While he has worked to spread sumo and engaged in philanthropic activities, including starting the Hakuho Cup championship for young sumo wrestlers both in and out of Japan, Hakuho has received criticism recently for overly aggressive matches and actions and statements viewed as unfit for a sumo champion.