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Hakuho's scolding triggered Harumafuji's assault on younger wrestler: sumo panel

Yokozuna Harumafuji, right, and his stablemaster Isegahama are seen during a press conference on Harumafuji's retirement in Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, on Nov. 29, 2017. (Mainichi)

Yokozuna Hakuho's reprimand of Takanoiwa triggered yokozuna Harumafuji's assault on the younger wrestler, over which Harumafuji has been forced to retire, according to an interim report released by a Japan Sumo Association (JSA) panel.

According to the report by the JSA's crisis-management committee, an Oct. 25 dinner party in Tottori, where Harumafuji assaulted Takanoiwa, was organized by those linked to Tottori Johoku High School for sumo wrestlers who graduated from the school.

At the dinner party, Hakuho admonished Takanoiwa for the junior wrestler's rude attitude at a restaurant in Tokyo in September. At the time, Harumafuji covered for Takanoiwa. Later that night during the after party, Harumafuji slapped Takanoiwa for using his smartphone when he was being scolded by Hakuho again. As Takanoiwa glared at Harumafuji, the yokozuna hit him in the head several times with a controller for a karaoke machine.

During the assault, Harumafuji grabbed a champagne bottle but it slipped out of his hand. After Hakuho tried to stop Harumafuji, the latter calmed down, but Takanoiwa sustained a head injury that required stitches.

The JSA is poised to convene an extraordinary board meeting on Dec. 20 to receive a final report from the crisis-management panel and decide whether to take punitive measures against those involved in the incident. The final report will also be submitted to the JSA's Yokozuna Deliberation Council to be convened before the board meeting.

In a related development, JSA Chairman Hakkaku issued a strong warning against Hakuho and his stablemaster Miyagino at the board meeting over the yokozuna's behavior after he clinched the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament title in November.

The board has deemed that Hakuho's remarks during a victory interview, expressing hope that Harumafuji and Takanoiwa will compete again, and his action to urge spectators to give three rousing cheers damaged his dignity as yokozuna.

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