Chanko Thief

Does Asashoryu Still Have It?

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Still pretty new to sumo, but one thing I have wondered for a while now is if Asashoryu could come back and still be a top player in sumo. Do you think he still has it in him, or is he too old and been out too long? I know that once you retire from Sumo there is no coming back but let's just pretend that was not the case. At 39 years of age, if given a year to train and get back in sumo shape, could Asashoryu still put on great sumo at age 40?

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Given your hypothetical situation, I think Asa would still have the skills and strength to compete at the joi level, barring injury, possibly even Ozeki level.  I don't think he could make it all the way back to the top, but it would be entertaining to watch, especially if he fought with the tenacity and fierceness he did on his way up the first time.

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Interesting question. I have a hard time seeing him getting back to his old form or competing at a top level given how long he’s been away and his age. If he’s been competing elsewhere he might have a shot of hanging around the upper levels but if I recall he’s into business now and not competing or training in any sport. Given that it takes time to move up the ranks I feel he’d stall out before getting to makuuchi.

Another interesting question might be if he’d never been forced to retire how many yusho would he have and would Hakuho still be regarded as the greatest? I feel like we lost out on a lot of great basho when Asashoryu retired. 

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13 hours ago, Katsunorifuji said:

Interesting question. I have a hard time seeing him getting back to his old form or competing at a top level given how long he’s been away and his age. If he’s been competing elsewhere he might have a shot of hanging around the upper levels but if I recall he’s into business now and not competing or training in any sport. Given that it takes time to move up the ranks I feel he’d stall out before getting to makuuchi.

Another interesting question might be if he’d never been forced to retire how many yusho would he have and would Hakuho still be regarded as the greatest? I feel like we lost out on a lot of great basho when Asashoryu retired. 

That’s one of the great “What ifs?” of modern sumo. I think the general consensus is Asashoryu and Hakuho would have traded yusho for at least a couple more years before Hakuho’s youth told and he became the dominant force in his own right, perhaps with Asa hanging on to take a few yusho here and there. If that had happened though, it would have thrown up other questions, mostly would Ama/Harumafuji have made the step up with two strong Yokozuna in his path? I’ve a feeling he’d have ended up in a Kisenosato situation.

Edit: Actually, come to think of it, Harumafuji didn’t get promoted until late 2012, which on my hypothetical timeline would have likely been after or around the time of Asashoryu’s  ‘natural’ retirement anyway.

Edited by Eikokurai

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I don't know about trading Emperor's Cups with Hakuho for a couple more years. His last three years active he won six yusho, He had fifteen yusho the preceding three years. He was in decline for various reasons, and Hakuho had already taken over. I think he had eleven yusho those last three years of Asashoryu's career. It's possible Asashoryu could have gotten maybe two yusho had he hung on another year, and maybe one more if he somehow managed to go on one more year beyond that. His days were numbered with Hakuho winning championships twice as often and only getting stronger.

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3 hours ago, Otokonoyama said:

I don't know about trading Emperor's Cups with Hakuho for a couple more years. His last three years active he won six yusho, He had fifteen yusho the preceding three years. He was in decline for various reasons, and Hakuho had already taken over. I think he had eleven yusho those last three years of Asashoryu's career. It's possible Asashoryu could have gotten maybe two yusho had he hung on another year, and maybe one more if he somehow managed to go on one more year beyond that. His days were numbered with Hakuho winning championships twice as often and only getting stronger.

Perhaps “trading” was a misleading word choice. I didn’t mean one-for-one necessarily, battling as equals all the way, only that Asashoryu would have continued winning yusho semi-regularly for quite a while. He won two of the previous three basho before he was forced to retire, beating Hakuho in ketteisen in one. He was still a force. It’s not as if he was going to put up the same sort of streaks he did when he was the sole Yokozuna. I see no reason not to believe he’d have managed at least one yusho for every 2-3 that went to someone else for two more years at a minimum. That’d be 3-4 yusho more than his total of 25. That’s not massively different to your estimate for the first year, I’m just more optimistic (is that the right word for hypothetical events in the past?) about the second year. He was only 29 when he was forced out. There was still plenty of life in him.

Edited by Eikokurai

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I couldn't possibly say how many yusho would have gone either way, but there's no question Hakuho was in major ascending mode at that point. We did miss some additional great battles, of course, but history goes as it goes.

What I'd like to see would be a Tanikaze Kajinosuke vs. Hakuho-sho match, both at their prime since we're be fanciful about it. Now, that would be interesting!

 

Edited by Kaminariyuki
typos
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Raiden vs Hakuho, if we're resurrecting careers (and rikishi).

Another what-if to this is what would have happened if Asashoryu had hung around as an oyakata. I don't think he was interested to begin with, but that door may have closed by how he exited sumo. He might have been able to steal the spotlight from Takanohana, preventing a lot of drama behind the scenes.

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1 hour ago, Churaumi said:

He might have been able to steal the spotlight from Takanohana, preventing a lot of drama behind the scenes.

In my experience, spotlight is not a conserved quantity.  It expands somewhat to meet the supply.  Asashoryu and Takanohana together might have been like dropping a Spotlight Bomb on the Kokugikan.

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2 hours ago, Churaumi said:

Raiden vs Hakuho, if we're resurrecting careers (and rikishi).

Another what-if to this is what would have happened if Asashoryu had hung around as an oyakata. I don't think he was interested to begin with, but that door may have closed by how he exited sumo. He might have been able to steal the spotlight from Takanohana, preventing a lot of drama behind the scenes.

Another interesting what if indeed. History has shown us that some of the best athletes turn out to be not the best coaches, and Asa is one of the people who comes off that way to me. A great competitor who I don’t think would have been able to share his talent and expertise. It’ll be interesting as well to see how Hakuho does after retirement and if he’s able to train someone who can even be half as talented as he is. 

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10 hours ago, Otokonoyama said:

I don't know about trading Emperor's Cups with Hakuho for a couple more years. His last three years active he won six yusho, He had fifteen yusho the preceding three years. He was in decline for various reasons, and Hakuho had already taken over. I think he had eleven yusho those last three years of Asashoryu's career. It's possible Asashoryu could have gotten maybe two yusho had he hung on another year, and maybe one more if he somehow managed to go on one more year beyond that. His days were numbered with Hakuho winning championships twice as often and only getting stronger.

6 hours ago, Eikokurai said:

Perhaps “trading” was a misleading word choice. I didn’t mean one-for-one necessarily, battling as equals all the way, only that Asashoryu would have continued winning yusho semi-regularly for quite a while. He won two of the previous three basho before he was forced to retire, beating Hakuho in ketteisen in one. He was still a force. It’s not as if he was going to put up the same sort of streaks he did when he was the sole Yokozuna. I see no reason not to believe he’d have managed at least one yusho for every 2-3 that went to someone else for two more years at a minimum. That’d be 3-4 yusho more than his total of 25. That’s not massively different to your estimate for the first year, I’m just more optimistic (is that the right word for hypothetical events in the past?) about the second year. He was only 29 when he was forced out. There was still plenty of life in him.

I've always been interested in periods of decline and ascendency by different Yokozuna. Hakuho certainly benefitted from Asashoryu being four and a half years older and being a bit more beaten up when he was coming though as an ozeki and to get the two yusho needed to become yokozuna, just as Asashoryu didn't have to face Musashimaru and Takanohana in his two yusho to get the tsuna. 

I had a look at their last 18 basho together (March 2007 - Jan 2010), chosen for a few reasons:

  1. it is the last 3 years of Asashoryu's career by basho
  2. it comes at the end of a 6 basho cycle where Asa had one 5 yusho and Hakuho his first (in Asashoryu's absence), so represents the period where they were "trading" yusho more regularly. The two of them won 16 of these 18 (with the other winners being Kotooshu and Harumafuji)
  3. Hakuho was about to become Yokozuna at age 22, so some of the same pressures in and outside of the rings are also brought to bear upon him in the same way as they are with Asashoryu

During these 18 basho, we definitely see the rise of Hakuho. He wins 11/18 Yusho and is the runner up in record another 6 times (3 of which he lost in a kettei-sen). There is only one basho where he is not close to the title, when he records 11-4 (in his first basho as Yokozuna, so plenty of other distractions at hand). 

Asashoryu has a more checkered time, mainly due to injuries and absences. He wins 5/18 Yusho and is runner up in record 4 times (1 of which is a kettei-sen loss). He is an also-ran in 4 of the basho, but recording double digits each time. Importantly, though, he is kyujo from before or during the basho in 5 basho (Sept & Nov 2007 and July-Nov 2008).

So, Hakuho looks to be in the ascendency and Asashoryu is breaking down and has his issues outside the sport. Looking more closely, in each of the 5 basho that Asashoryu is absent or has to withdraw from the basho, Hakuho wins the yusho. After both periods of kyujo, Asashoryu bounces back to close to his best: 13-2 jun-yusho in Jan 2008 to Hakuho's 14-1 yusho result; and, 14-1 yusho result in Jan 2009, defeating Hakuho in a kettei-sen.

 Over this 18 basho period, Asashoryu could only manage 4-9 record in regular matches against Hakuho, with 5 basho where they did not meet. However, in 3 kettei-sen between the two, Asashoryu came out with a 2-1 record, where the two wins came in the last 7 basho of his career. So, Hakuho was doing better in the head-to-head match-ups, but Asashoryu could still put up a fight with the title on the line, even in the last year of his career. 

As has been said by @Eikokurai, Asashoryu was still only 29 and a half when he left sumo, so still had some time on his side. He'd had some injuries (from memory, he had a back problem that would flare up), and Hakuho was still young enough that this was not a problem. While we are hypothesising, it's interesting to note that the 11-5 yusho ascendency to Hakuho in this period could also be read as 6-5-5 (where the last 5 refers to 5 won by Hakuho in Asashoryu's absence). If Asashoryu had not been absent, we'd look at perhaps him taking at least one or two off Hakuho in this period, perhaps more. That would make it a little closer to 9-7 yusho in Hakuho's favour, and would also correct the head-to-head bout numbers as well. 

Getting back to the original hypothesis of what it would look like if Asashoryu had stayed, I think we could have seen him stay perhaps two more years before he became too broken and/or sick of the restrictions that sumo had and that he seemed to get himself in trouble over repeatedly. In those perhaps 12 basho, I think we could've expected a healthy Asashoryu to take 3-4 as @Eikokurai has said. We know that Hakuho won 10 yusho in the next 12 basho after Asashoryu retired. He was obviously carrying on a rich vein of form, but he did not have the spectre of another Yokozuna waiting to trip him up on Day 15 either.  

 

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@Sasanishiki Worth noting that two of those “kyujo” were actually suspensions rather than injury-related, so there’s reason to believe he’d have performed well had he entered.

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53 minutes ago, Sasanishiki said:

I've always been interested in periods of decline and ascendency by different Yokozuna. Hakuho certainly benefitted from Asashoryu being four and a half years older and being a bit more beaten up when he was coming though as an ozeki and to get the two yusho needed to become yokozuna, just as Asashoryu didn't have to face Musashimaru and Takanohana in his two yusho to get the tsuna. 

I had a look at their last 18 basho together (March 2007 - Jan 2010), chosen for a few reasons:

  1. it is the last 3 years of Asashoryu's career by basho
  2. it comes at the end of a 6 basho cycle where Asa had one 5 yusho and Hakuho his first (in Asashoryu's absence), so represents the period where they were "trading" yusho more regularly. The two of them won 16 of these 18 (with the other winners being Kotooshu and Harumafuji)
  3. Hakuho was about to become Yokozuna at age 22, so some of the same pressures in and outside of the rings are also brought to bear upon him in the same way as they are with Asashoryu

During these 18 basho, we definitely see the rise of Hakuho. He wins 11/18 Yusho and is the runner up in record another 6 times (3 of which he lost in a kettei-sen). There is only one basho where he is not close to the title, when he records 11-4 (in his first basho as Yokozuna, so plenty of other distractions at hand). 

Asashoryu has a more checkered time, mainly due to injuries and absences. He wins 5/18 Yusho and is runner up in record 4 times (1 of which is a kettei-sen loss). He is an also-ran in 4 of the basho, but recording double digits each time. Importantly, though, he is kyujo from before or during the basho in 5 basho (Sept & Nov 2007 and July-Nov 2008).

So, Hakuho looks to be in the ascendency and Asashoryu is breaking down and has his issues outside the sport. Looking more closely, in each of the 5 basho that Asashoryu is absent or has to withdraw from the basho, Hakuho wins the yusho. After both periods of kyujo, Asashoryu bounces back to close to his best: 13-2 jun-yusho in Jan 2008 to Hakuho's 14-1 yusho result; and, 14-1 yusho result in Jan 2009, defeating Hakuho in a kettei-sen.

 Over this 18 basho period, Asashoryu could only manage 4-9 record in regular matches against Hakuho, with 5 basho where they did not meet. However, in 3 kettei-sen between the two, Asashoryu came out with a 2-1 record, where the two wins came in the last 7 basho of his career. So, Hakuho was doing better in the head-to-head match-ups, but Asashoryu could still put up a fight with the title on the line, even in the last year of his career. 

As has been said by @Eikokurai, Asashoryu was still only 29 and a half when he left sumo, so still had some time on his side. He'd had some injuries (from memory, he had a back problem that would flare up), and Hakuho was still young enough that this was not a problem. While we are hypothesising, it's interesting to note that the 11-5 yusho ascendency to Hakuho in this period could also be read as 6-5-5 (where the last 5 refers to 5 won by Hakuho in Asashoryu's absence). If Asashoryu had not been absent, we'd look at perhaps him taking at least one or two off Hakuho in this period, perhaps more. That would make it a little closer to 9-7 yusho in Hakuho's favour, and would also correct the head-to-head bout numbers as well. 

Getting back to the original hypothesis of what it would look like if Asashoryu had stayed, I think we could have seen him stay perhaps two more years before he became too broken and/or sick of the restrictions that sumo had and that he seemed to get himself in trouble over repeatedly. In those perhaps 12 basho, I think we could've expected a healthy Asashoryu to take 3-4 as @Eikokurai has said. We know that Hakuho won 10 yusho in the next 12 basho after Asashoryu retired. He was obviously carrying on a rich vein of form, but he did not have the spectre of another Yokozuna waiting to trip him up on Day 15 either.  

 

Awesome analysis! I don’t think I could anymore to this no matter how hard I tried. I’ll admit I didn’t realize how ascendant Hakuho was and how much Asa had leveled off. I recall that Asa won the yusho in his last basho and that probably skewed my image of him a bit.

Edited by Katsunorifuji

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Last I heard of him doing sumo was in preparation for a TV match vs Kotomitsuki in 2017, which he won. Kinta posted about him getting the better of Kaisei in keiko:

 

"Asashouryuu trained at Tomozuna beya today, facing Kaisei. "I beat him 10 out 14 times,"said the ex-Yokozuna. Reminder-Kaisei now weighs 205 kilos.. Asa seems to have gotten a lot of confidence from this training session. as reported earlier the rules are no harite, no henka at the tachiai, no kachiage. Other than that, regular sumo rules apply. All participants will don a mawashi. "

Edited by Katooshu

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4 hours ago, Eikokurai said:

@Sasanishiki Worth noting that two of those “kyujo” were actually suspensions rather than injury-related, so there’s reason to believe he’d have performed well had he entered.

I had an inkling the two 0-0-15 kyujo were to do with a sanction for behaviour, but couldn't recall exactly and didn't bother to check. Looking back on it now, I remember it was the elbow injury, taking part in charity soccer in Mongolia, becoming depressed in Tokyo during his ban and heading back to Mongolia for a break. He was out for 4-5 months due to the ban and the time in between basho. Depending on whether you accept that he had an elbow injury or whether it was an excuse to get out of the jungyo, that gave him time to rest an injured elbow, so his results might have been compromised anyway if he had carried on.

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18 hours ago, Katsunorifuji said:

Another interesting what if indeed. History has shown us that some of the best athletes turn out to be not the best coaches, and Asa is one of the people who comes off that way to me. A great competitor who I don’t think would have been able to share his talent and expertise. It’ll be interesting as well to see how Hakuho does after retirement and if he’s able to train someone who can even be half as talented as he is. 

I'd say he's been transitioning for the last three years, and having two beya-mates in the makuuchi indicates a positive likelihood. Many folks on SF seem to think that Ishiura and Enho are exceeding what would be considered high expectations, another indication of good instruction and assistance coming from somewhere. I think Hokaho may have what it takes to move up a bit, as well. We shall see whenever we get another basho.

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If Asashoryu had gone on for a another year or two, perhaps Hakuho might not have 40 yusho at this point. But then again, it is all about "what if?"

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On 23/04/2020 at 16:29, Washuyama said:

Given your hypothetical situation, I think Asa would still have the skills and strength to compete at the joi level, barring injury, possibly even Ozeki level.  I don't think he could make it all the way back to the top, but it would be entertaining to watch, especially if he fought with the tenacity and fierceness he did on his way up the first time.

Thank you for the feedback. I agree 100%. Recent videos of him lead me to believe that he didn't take that much long term damage to his body, so I think he would be relatively injury-free, but then again, walking around looking healthy is completely different from competing in sumo again....

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It's too bad we'll never see either Asa or Ama in an OldBoy match, since I'm sure that would be insufficiently hinkaku-rich for a Yokozuna.  Of course, Asashoryu did that weird sumo vs martial arts thing a couple of years ago, so who knows? I'd sure love to see Harumafuji on the dohyo again.

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44 minutes ago, Yamanashi said:

It's too bad we'll never see either Asa or Ama in an OldBoy match, since I'm sure that would be insufficiently hinkaku-rich for a Yokozuna.  Of course, Asashoryu did that weird sumo vs martial arts thing a couple of years ago, so who knows? I'd sure love to see Harumafuji on the dohyo again.

An OldBoy match between those two would be awesome and would probably be more exciting for me than most current rikishi match ups.

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