Mongolian sumo wrestlers defend grand champion Harumafuji

November 16, 2017

In this Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, photo, Mongolian sumo grand champion Harumafuji leaves after visiting wrestler Takanoiwa's stable master's quarters in Tagawa, southwestern Japan. Japanese media reported that Harumafuji hit his fellow Mongolian wrestler Takanoiwa in the head with a beer bottle at a party in October, fracturing his skull base and causing other injuries. (Nozomi Endo/Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — Two sumo wrestlers have come to the defense of fellow Mongolian Harumafuji, who was recently accused of hitting a fellow wrestler in the head with a beer bottle.

Japanese media reported that grand champion Harumafuji hit another Mongolian wrestler, Takanoiwa, in the head with a bottle at a party last month, fracturing his skull and causing other injuries.

According to domestic media reports, Harumafuji was agitated by Takanoiwa checking his smartphone while they were interacting.

But grand champion Hakuho, who was at the party, had a different version of events.

Harumafuji “didn’t hit with a beer bottle,” Hakuho said Thursday at the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament in Fukuoka. “It is not true that he sat astride (Takanoiwa).”

Former grand champion Asashoryu, also of Mongolia, was critical of the reporting.

“The mass media only criticizes Harumafuji,” Asashoryu said via Twitter. “I don’t think that’s right.”

In 2010, then-yokozuna Asashoryu, also from Mongolia, retired from the sport after allegations he had attacked a man outside a Tokyo nightclub during a tournament.

The news on Harumafuji has dominated Japanese television talk shows and evening newspapers this week as the nation expressed shock at claims against a yokozuna, or grand champion, whose behavior in sports and society is expected to be exemplary.

Update hourly