Sumo boss Takanohana resigns over assault row

Japanese sumo stable master and former sumo grand champion Takanohana said his decision to step down was 'gut wrenching'

A top sumo stablemaster resigned Tuesday over a scandal that rocked Japan's traditional sport, in which one of his wrestlers was brutally beaten in a drunken brawl with another fighter. Takanohana, a former Grand Champion or "yokozuna" who is a household name in Japan, laid the blame at the door of sumo officials for what he said was an "agonising" and "gut-wrenching" decision. He claimed the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) had pressured him to admit he had fabricated his report over the October incident, which rocked Japan's traditional sport. "I cannot bend the truth and say that what was in my complaint was untrue," he told a nationally televised press conference. JSA officials were not immediately available for comment. With his retirement, Takanohana's wrestlers and staff will transfer to another stable. In October, one of his wrestlers, Takanoiwa, became embroiled in a fight with Harumafuji, a top-ranked yokozuna, which left him with a fractured skull. Harumafuji, who is Mongolian, stepped down over the assault and was fined 500,000 yen ($4,400). In a well-documented and celebrated career, Takanohana along with his elder brother Wakanohana, shot to stardom during their competitive careers during the 1990s and early 2000s. Their rise to yokozuna boosted the popularity of sumo. But his resignation is the latest scandal to hit the sport in recent years, from allegations of bout-fixing to drugs arrests and violent bullying -- the most serious case resulting in the death of a teenage wrestler in 2007. Earlier this year, sumo became involved in a sexism row after women who rushed to the aid of a local mayor who had collapsed during a speech at a regional event were repeatedly told to leave a ring. Sumo dirt rings, known as "dohyo", are viewed as sacred in the Japanese Shinto faith and women -- considered to be ritually unclean -- are not allowed to enter for fear of desecrating the hallowed soil.