July 11, 2009 / 8:37 AM / 8 years ago

Sumo wrestler Asashoryu criticized for being "podgy"

<p>Sumo grand champion, or Yokozuna, Asashoryu of Mongolia, stretches during a joint practice for the Yokozuna Deliberation Council in Tokyo May 5, 2007.Toru Hanai</p>

TOKYO (Reuters) - Sumo bad boy Asashoryu, no stranger to public criticism, has been labeled "podgy" in a bizarre attack on the volatile Mongolian.

A popular former wrestler now working as a TV commentator accused Asashoryu of being flabby, even though his 150-kilogram frame is relatively small for the sport.

"He looks podgy," Shuhei Mainoumi told Japanese media.

"He doesn't look as buff. When I got flabby I hated being naked and showing off my body -- he looks a bit like that."

Sumo wrestlers, many tipping the scales at well over 250 kilos, do battle wearing only a traditional silk "mawashi" or loin-cloth.

Amid the collapse of his marriage, the controversial grand champion has once again ruffled feathers after oversleeping and missing training ahead of a major tournament in Nagoya.

"I won't let my fans down," Asashoryu growled when asked about his marital problems. "I've proved people wrong before and I see light at the end of the tunnel."

The 28-year-old has polarized opinion in Japan's ancient sport with regular breaches of protocol and his notoriously short fuse has frequently landed him in trouble.

Soapsuds flew when he famously picked a fight with an opponent during a soak in a communal bath, while he was banned in 2007 for playing soccer while supposedly injured.

His suspension triggered a bout of clinical depression, leading Asashoryu to seek solace at a luxury spa resort in his native country.

Critics within the closeted world of sumo accuse him of lacking the dignity to hold the elite rank of "yokozuna" despite his remarkable haul of 23 Emperor's Cups.

Asashoryu was given around-the-clock police protection in Tokyo earlier this year after receiving a death threat posted on an Internet forum.

Editing by Peter Rutherford.

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