Sumo's sole grand champion Hakuho, who withdrew from the recent Spring Grand Tournament with a knee injury, will remain subject to a stern warning over his repeated absences from competition, the sport's governing body decided Monday.

At a regular meeting in Tokyo, the Japan Sumo Association's yokozuna advisory body chose to uphold the warning it originally issued last November to Hakuho and fellow Mongolian-born grand champion Kakuryu, who has since retired.

The JSA agreed to make a final decision on the matter after the July grand tournament, which Hakuho has circled for his comeback following surgery on his troublesome right knee.

Yokozuna Hakuho. (Kyodo)

The 15-day March tourney concluded Sunday without a grand champion competing after both Hakuho and Kakuryu pulled out.

Kakuryu, who was missing from a fifth straight meet, announced his retirement from competition during the tournament.

Hakuho, the winner of a record 44 top-division titles, won his first two bouts but dropped out on Day 3 and later underwent endoscopic surgery to remove excess fluid from his swollen knee.

According to his stablemaster Miyagino, Hakuho views the July 4-18 meet at Dolphins Arena in Aichi Prefecture as make or break, and will decide whether or not to retire based on his performance there.

The only current yokozuna following Kakuryu's retirement, Hakuho by July will have missed all or part of six straight meets, including the New Year tourney, which he was forced to skip due to a positive coronavirus test.

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