Akebono realizes tradition and honor won't get him very far in the brutal sport of K-1, like they did in sumo.
The Hawaii-born giant, the first non-Japanese wrestler to reach sumo's highest rank of yokozuna or grand champion, has won only one of his seven K-1 matches and admits being a little confused by the new sport that combines elements of kickboxing, karate and taekwondo.
"I had the mentality of, `The yokozuna is not going out to disgrace your opponent,'" he said.
"Lately, I've been able to change my attitude: if I don't go out there and hurt somebody, I'm going to get hurt myself. I still hold what I did in sumo very highly but this is a totally different game," he said.
Smiling and looking relaxed, Akebono, 36, is back home on the island of Oahu and co-headlining today's K-1 World Grand Prix in Hawaii. He has a huge opponent in South Korea's Choi Hong-man.
Known in his rural hometown of Waimanalo as Chad Rowan, Akebono has shed 27kg since retiring from sumo in 2001. He now carries 213kg on his 2.03m frame.
Not only is he lighter, he has regained the competitive fire he missed while "sitting at home for two-and-a-half years not doing anything."
He said it was the competition -- not the limelight or the money -- that lured him back into a ring.
"I'm not trying to make a name for myself. I already had one successful career in sumo," said Akebono, who became a Japanese citizen in 1996. "Basically for me now, I just want to know I fought the best in the world."
While Akebono has been a huge draw for K-1, which is wildly popular in Japan, many felt he was tarnishing the image of a grand champion by fighting in the bloody and glitzy sport. The title of yokozuna is considered a mark of honor and its holders are held to very high standards, even after leaving the raised ring.
An official of the Japan Sumo Association on Tuesday declined to comment, saying Akebono is a retired wrestler and the association usually does not comment on those who quit or retire.
"To me, I felt I did as much as I could do for sumo and I feel I took the proper channels in leaving the sport as gracefully as possible," Akebono said.
Akebono said his accomplishments and legacy in sumo have not been tarnished.
"No matter what they do, it's not going to ever be taken out of the record books," he said.
Akebono said K-1 has overtaken sumo in popularity in Japan over the past two or three years. But they are totally different sports.
"The Japanese do not look at sumo as a sport, it's more of an art to them," he said.
But losing hasn't been easy for Akebono, who won 11 Emperor's Cups in sumo.
"It's very frustrating," he said. "It is hard, but you have to realize, I knew when I came into the sport, it was going to be a hard road."
His trainer, Faii Falamoe of New Zealand, said it was a challenge to train someone Akebono's size. However, Akebono's desire and competitiveness were there, he said.
He taught Akebono blocks, knee attacks and to punch with a closed fist. In sumo, Akebono was used to powerful openhanded shoves and slaps.
Akebono, who came out of retirement and trained only two months for his unsuccessful K-1 debut in December 2003 against former NFL lineman Bob Sapp, said he has been receiving "on-the-job" training and is now trying to pace himself in bouts.
"I am getting used to this sport," he said. "It's not like something you can jump in and expect to do in two months. It took me a year to finally stand and fight for three minutes, three rounds."
Akebono promises today's fight will feature no running or chasing -- just two mega-heavyweights "unloading" on each other.
He downplays his first loss to Choi in March.
"Basically, I went to his backyard to fight him. Now he has to come to my hometown and fight me," he said. "Mentally, physically, I've been working hard. I know I cannot lose here in Hawaii."
Chen Jifang hits the gym for at least two hours every day and has the physique to prove it. At nearly 70, she is being held up as a shining example as China orders its vast population to get fit and lose the bulge. The grandmother from Shanghai has become a minor celebrity in in the past few months after her newfound and unlikely love for working out made national headlines. After becoming a gym regular in December 2018, Chen lost 14kg in three months, and now sports the kind of flat stomach and toned muscles that people decades younger aspire to. She
TAIWANESE TO PLAY: Jason Jung faces Frederico Coria in the men’s singles first round today, while in the women’s singles, Hsieh Su-wei is to take on Barbara Haas Novak Djokovic is to renew his love-hate relationship with Roland Garros in the knowledge that it is himself rather than seemingly unsettled 12-time champion Rafael Nadal who could pose the greatest threat to winning a second Paris title and 18th Grand Slam crown. The only man to beat Djokovic this year is Djokovic after the Serb’s hair-trigger temper prompted a sensational disqualification from the US Open. The 33-year-old arrives in the French capital with a 31-1 record this year after his New York brain-fade was followed by a record 36th Masters title in Rome. Djokovic’s 2016 triumph at Roland Garros allowed him to
Taiwan’s Jason Jung was knocked out of the first round of the French Open in straight sets on Sunday, while Andy Murray said it was going to be “difficult” for the former world No. 1 to reach his level of old after he also fell to a lopsided defeat by fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka. Jung fell to a 7-5, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/3) defeat to Argentina’s Federico Coria in 3 hours, 19 minutes at Roland Garros, despite hitting 55 winners. Jung served for both the first and second sets, then failed to convert two set points at 5-4 in
Michael Schumacher’s son Mick said that the prospect of Lewis Hamilton equaling the Ferrari great’s all-time record of 91 wins has given him something to aim for when he gets to Formula One. Hamilton, who replaced Michael Schumacher at Mercedes in 2013, can take his 91st victory in today’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi — a race he has won four times previously. “One sentence my dad always used to say was: ‘Records are there to be broken.’ It’s everybody’s aim in this sport to do that,” Formula Two championship leader Mick Schumacher said on Friday. “I think Lewis had a very, very