The most talked about, despised and loved Sumo Wrestler of our era has opted for retirement. The Mongolian Powerhouse that has dominated Japan's National Sport since being promoted to the rank of Yokozuna in 2003 has given in to pressure to bow out of the sport as his latest controversy surfaces.
It is being widely reported that Asashoryu severely beat a fellow bar patron in a drunken rampage in the Nishi-Azabu district of Tokyo in January. This is only the latest scandal in a career that many Sumo spectators and reporters believe is a black eye on the sport itself. Asashoryu has received negative publicity for alleged match-fixing. He also cited injury and declined to participate in summer Sumo events in 2007 and returned to Mongolia. During his trip home, he was filmed playing in a charity soccer match. When the Yokozuna returned to Japan he was suspended from upcoming tournaments. This marking the first time an active Yokozuna had been suspended from a major tournament. He has also drawn negative publicity for fighting with Sumo off the dohyo, complaining about officiating, injuring wrestlers in training sessions and refusing to adopt Japanese Citizenship.
By focusing exclusively on Asashoryu's transgressions and by holding him out as a hot-head or a bully, the Sumo world is exposing itself to be filled with unrealistic expectations of a professional athlete in the modern age. Sure, his latest drunken escapades are not to be condoned entirely, nor are other allegations made against him. However, this routine chastising of a champion that has achieved so much is at times painful. Sumo is a little different from other sports, because it is steeped in tradition and codes of conduct and the allure of the sport rests partly in those attributes.
The simple fact that Asashoryu is Mongolian has hampered his reputation with fans who have openly called for him to, “Go back to Mongolia.” The Yokozuna is being treated differently because he is not Japanese, and he is not totally willing to bend his spirit to what the Sumo Association expects. His behavior might have been unbecoming to a man entrusted with the Yokozuna rank, but he is uniquely an individual and has brought the popularity of the sport to new audiences and as a whole leaves the business of Sumo better off for his presence in the role of champion.
"It's not only Asashoryu's problem. The root of the problem is the association's economic motive," said journalist Yorimasa Takeda, who accused Asashoryu of match-fixing in an article published in a weekly magazine in 2007. Despite his "bad guy" image, Asashoryu was a fan magnet and thus generated a lot of money for the sumo industry, which was behind the association's reluctance to punish him severely, Takeda said. (1)
First Mongolian Yokozuna
In 2005 he became the first wrestler to win all six official tournaments in a single calender year
He won a total of 25 top division tournament championships
Third highest all time on wins behind Taiho and Chiyonofuji
Career record 669- 173- 76
As Asashoryu retires he should be remembered for; his strong personality, his warrior spirit, his good nature, his dominance of native Japanese wrestlers and his outstanding record.