Takanoiwa Pulled From New Year Grand Tournament

Mongolian wrestler Takanoiwa, who sustained head injuries as the victim of an assault case, has withdrawn from the upcoming New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, the Japan Sumo Association said Friday.

In a meeting to discuss the bouts for the meets at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo taking place on January 14th-28th, the JSA decided that Takanoiwa, who is now a third-ranked grappler in the second-tier juryo division, will not be demoted to the lower makushita division for the spring meet in March.

By submitting a doctor’s note, the 27-year-old has been granted medical leave that would allow him to avoid demotion to the non-salaried makushita ranking even in the event he misses all 15 days of the New Year meet.

According to a medical diagnosis, Takanoiwa needs to avoid any blow to his head for about three months counting from the day the injury was sustained when he was assaulted by former yokozuna Harumafuji, in a bar fight during the fall regional tour in Tottori and required stitches to his head.

He missed the entire Kyushu tournament in November and has been dropped to the juryo division in the latest banzuke rankings. Harumafuji retired to take responsibility for his actions.

Takanoiwa skipped the promotional tour last month without turning in a medical certificate to the JSA. According to a report by the association’s crisis management panel dated Dec. 20, Takanoiwa was hospitalized on Dec. 5.

Harumafuji’s retirement leaves three active grand champions — Japan-born Kisenosato and two Mongolians, Hakuho and Kakuryu.

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