Yokozuna Hakuho, who holds the all-time record of 44 top-division titles, pulled out of the upcoming Summer Sumo Grand Tournament on Friday and will miss a sixth straight basho, the equal third-longest injury absence by a grand champion in sumo history.

Hakuho will rank behind Kisenosato, who failed to complete eight straight grand tournaments for the longest absence for a yokozuna since the current six-tournament system was introduced in 1958, and Takanohana, who holds the second-longest such streak with seven consecutive tournament withdrawals.

Grand champion Hakuho performs a ring-entering ritual on the first day of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan on March 14, 2021. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

He joins Kashiwado, Kitanoumi, and Musashimaru who all missed six tournaments during their yokozuna careers.

The 15-day competition opens Sunday at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan.

Hakuho underwent knee surgery in March and had mapped out a plan to skip the summer meet and return to the dohyo at the Nagoya basho in July. There, the 36-year-old Mongolia-born wrestler will be expected to either perform at a high level or face a call to retire.

Last November, two grand champions, Hakuho and the now-retired Kakuryu, were given a warning for their lack of participation in recent tournaments by the Japan Sumo Association's yokozuna advisory body.

The stern warning had never before been issued to a top-ranked wrestler and it is second only to a retirement recommendation in severity. In March, sumo's governing body decided Hakuho will remain subject to the warning.

Mongolia-born Kakuryu retired in March after missing five consecutive tournaments, leaving Hakuho as the sport's sole yokozuna.

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Sumo: Hakuho remains subject to warning over injury absences