Sat, Jul 06, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Sumo’s Sokokurai returns after battle over match-fixing

AFP, TOKYO

Sokokurai, right, a professional sumo wrestler from Inner Mongolia, China, trains on April 4 in Nagoya, Japan.

Photo: AFP

A sumo wrestler who successfully fought match-fixing allegations vowed yesterday he would come back fighting at the Nagoya tournament, which starts this weekend.

“I will go all out,” Sokokurai told Japanese media at his training facility in Nagoya, central Japan, as he geared up for his first official bout in more than two years.

“My condition is not bad,” said the 29-year-old from the Inner Mongolia region of China, ahead of the 15-day tournament.

“I have no fear. I have done what I should do,” added the wrestler, whose real name is Enhetubuxin.

Sokokurai, who stands 1.86m tall and weighs 134kg, returns to his maegashira No. 15 rank. That places him joint 39th in the 42-strong top division.

He was one of about 20 wrestlers embroiled in a huge bout-rigging scandal that rocked the centuries-old sport in 2011.

Most of the accused retired under pressure from the sport’s governing body, the Japan Sumo Association, but Sokokurai was fired when he refused.

The wrestler, who denied any involvement, took the case to court. In March this year the Tokyo District Court ruled his dismissal was invalid, because it could not find conclusive evidence to back up the alleged misconduct.

The association approved his reinstatement in April and its president, Kitanoumi, who is still known by his ring name, apologized.

When the roster for the tournament was announced last week, Sokokurai revealed he had not been able to watch sumo matches on TV while his trial was under way.

“I wondered why I was not out there,” he said. “At the beginning, I thought about too many things to sleep at night.”

He has been given two decorative aprons, which wrestlers wear during ceremonies in the ring, by his lawyers and supporters.

“I can only repay them with my sumo,” he said.

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