Sumo great Hakuho demoted over protege's bullying

A photo from July 2021 showing Mongolian-born sumo wrestler Hakuho at an awards ceremony. His protege, 22-year-old Hokuseiho, was alleged to have punched his lower-ranked stable mates and stolen money from them. - AFP

TOKYO: Sumo's greatest champion, Hakuho, has been demoted from his role as stablemaster over a failure to supervise a protege and prevent him from physically abusing other wrestlers, Japanese media said.

Hakuho, who won a record 45 tournaments before retiring in 2021, was fined and downgraded to the lowest rank of sumo elders for failing to control the behaviour of prized pupil Hokuseiho, the reports said.

The 22-year-old Hokuseiho, who stands 204cm (six feet eight inches), was alleged to have punched his lower-ranked stablemates and stolen money from them.

"I feel heavily responsible for failing to protect my trainee wrestlers", Hakuho told reporters gathered outside his stable on Friday.

"I'm deeply sorry for causing worry to many sumo fans and supporters," the former champion said, before bowing deeply.

After dismissal and a recommendation to retire, demotion in rank is seen as the most serious punishment for sumo elders.

Hokuseiho, meanwhile, apologised for "betraying the trust of our fans."

"I deeply regret that I abused my junior wrestlers. I'm very sorry," Hokuseiho told reporters, adding that he planned to retire from the ancient sport.

A compliance committee commissioned by the Japan Sumo Association to probe the alleged abuse accused Hakuho of having botched his oversight of Hokuseiho, public broadcaster NHK said.

Even after learning of his protege's misconduct, the sumo great didn't swiftly take action to report it to JSA officials in charge of compliance, NHK quoted the committee as saying.

Mongolian-born Hakuho, 38, took over his stable in July 2022 and assumed the sumo elder name Miyagino. - AFP

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Japan , sumo , Hakuho , protege


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