"Porky" jibe a low blow for Mongolian wrestler

Tue Jul 28, 2009 8:28am EDT
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By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Bad boy sumo grand champion Asashoryu has been called many things but it is unlikely being dubbed "porky" will cause the Mongolian to lose much sleep.

When a television commentator recently accused the controversial yokozuna of being flabby, it marked a new low in the hounding of one of the greats of Japan's ancient sport.

Asashoryu has long been the man people love to hate, his notoriously short fuse having landed him in hot water countless times.

The 28-year-old, who has won a remarkable 23 Emperor's Cups, has polarized opinion within the strict, cloistered world of sumo with his regular breaches of protocol.

Telling Japanese journalists to "Drop dead" has hardly helped to improve his image but his disdain for the press is perhaps understandable.

There is an undercurrent of xenophobia in the frequent tabloid attacks on Asashoryu, who needed around-the-clock police protection after receiving a death threat earlier this year.

His critics say he "lacks the dignity" to hold the divine-like rank of yokozuna, a line often trotted out by Japan's conservative press and even members of sumo's inner sanctum.

"They say they're protecting sumo," Japan Times sumo columnist Mark Buckton told Reuters. "It is an easy way to side-step xenophobic accusations.   Continued...

<p>Mongolian sumo yokozuna (grand champion) Hakuho (R) throws down his compatriot yokozuna Asashoryu on the last day of the 15-day Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament in Nagoya, central Japan in this July 26, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Kyodo/Files</p>