TOKYO – Sumo great Hakuho is retiring at the age of 36, marking the end of an era in the Japanese traditional sport.
Mongolia-born Yokozuna, or Grand Champion, Hakuho has won a record 45 tournaments, including 16 perfect wins, which is also a record.
According to Japan’s NHK national television, he has decided to retire due to a right knee injury. He scored 1,187 victories, an all-time record in sumo.
Yokozuna Deliberation Council President Hironori Yano said at a news conference that he learned of his intention to step down from his stable mentor. Hakuho is expected to submit formal retirement documents later.
Born in 1985, Mukhbat Dwajargal, he is the son of a silver medalist for Mongolia in freestyle wrestling at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.
Hakuho came to Japan at the age of 15 to start his sumo career.
He made his debut in 2001 and won his first title in the Makuchi top division five years later, before reaching the highest rank of yokozuna in July 2007 at the age of 22.
In the 2000s, Hakuho and rival Mongolian champion Asashoru wowed fans with images of their respective good man versus bad man.
Hakuho received Japanese citizenship in 2019, earning the right to set up and run his own sumo stable after retirement to train wrestlers.
Hakuho had a knee operation in March. In July, he won the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament, the only event he participated in this year after missing all or part of the previous six tournaments.
During his 21-year career, Hakuho appeared in 1,019 bouts as a yokozuna, winning 899 of them.
Hakuho broke sumo great Taiho’s record of 33 tournament wins in January 2015.
Hakuho fought in his 1,000th bout in July 2020, becoming sumo’s longest-serving yokozuna.
His retirement would leave Terunofuji the only wrestler at the top ranks of sumo.