On the 29th, the Japan Sumo Association confirmed that there will be a joint Yokozuna-Ozeki listing on the rankings chart for the upcoming Haru Basho in March.
With Goeido’s recent decision to retire, Takakeisho is the only current Ozeki. As Takakeisho will naturally fill the East Ozeki slot (East being a higher position than West), the West Ozeki slot is vacant. The question is whether Hakuho or Kakuryu will end up as West Yokozuna. Whoever does will fill the empty Ozeki position and hold the two posts simultaneously.
Before Yokozuna became the highest rank in 1909, it was a title to be added on to the rank of Ozeki in certain cases. And it has been established since the Edo period (1603-1868) that each of the san’yaku ranks must have an East and a West. Unlike the ranks of Komusubi and Sekiwake, which can be awarded to a high achieving rank-and-filer, there are specific criteria for promotion to Ozeki. As there are no wrestlers running for the position at the moment, a Yokozuna-Ozeki title is the only option.
The last time a Yokozuna-Ozeki inscription was seen was on the 1982 Hatsu Basho banzuke. With Kotokaze as the lone Ozeki, West Yokozuna Kitanoumi was tasked with filling both of the highest west side positions.