This arc introduces Sendō Takeshi, one of the recurring characters in the story who is at the moment the West Japan Rookie King, a big fan of Takamura Mamoru and now Makunouchi Ippo who he is excited to face as soon as possible in the All Japan Rookie King Tournament since Ippo is the East Japan Rookie King.
The West Japan Rookie King - Sendō Takeshi
After winning in the East Japan Rookie King Tournament, Ippo begins to have more coverage on boxing magazines. Learning that Ippo won the tournament, Umezawa reminds Ippo that the next tournament is the All Japan Rookie King Tournament. However, Umezawa, Takemura, and Matsuda become disappointed when Ippo reveals to them that he has to withdraw due to his right fist being broken and the healing period is two months, which is the same amount of time when the tournament starts and he does not want to hurt it again right after it heals. Ippo then wonders how far he will go in boxing, needing to find a new goal.
At the Naniwa Boxing Club in Osaka, a man watches videos of Ippo's matches while expressing how boring the West Japan Rookie King Tournament was and how he has now found a man he can connect with. His trainer then informs him that Ippo has withdrawn from the All Japan Rookie King tournament, angering the West Rookie King and causing him to go to Tokyo. Meanwhile, Ippo goes to the Yamanaka Bakery and finds out that Kumi had quit there to work with her brother's job. Saddened by the thought of never seeing her again, Ippo walks to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym where he finds the West Japan Rookie King, Sendō Takeshi, who was waiting for him.
Sendō, after explaining why he is called "Rocky", asks why Ippo is withdrawing, as he accidentally reveals he had developed a hidden technique, the Smash just for him. Ippo explains the situation about his right fist, then heads out for roadwork, which the angered Sendō soon follows. While taking a break, Ippo asks Sendō why he started boxing. Sendō answers that he loves sticking to strong people and win in order to confidently say he is strong. Sendō then goes back to the Kamogawa gym to take a shower so he can head back to Osaka. After meeting Takamura and got his autograph, he begins to leave, only to remember that he only brought enough money for one trip and requests to stay at the gym for the night. That night, Ippo notices how Sendō's a lot like him while reading magazine articles, wondering what would happen if they fought.
The next day, Kamogawa meets Sendō, and tells him Ippo can not fight. He then gives Sendō money to go back home before leaving to Thailand to find boxers for Takamura to fight. Takamura becomes fired up from the news and wishes to spar. Sendō requests to spar, as thanks for letting him stay at the gym overnight despite Takamura being six weight classes higher. When the spar begins, Sendō has trouble hitting Takamura, and hits him with an elbow on purpose, which angers him. Sendō then unleashes his Smash, hitting the surprised Takamura. Takamura immediately knocks out Sendō with a strong right, ending the spar. While getting water to wake Sendō back up, Ippo realises how much Sendō really likes boxing and now Ippo does not want to lose to him. After Sendō wakes back up, Kimura drives Sendō (along with Ippo) to an airport for him to go back to Osaka. Before leaving for the plane at the airport, Sendō tells Ippo that he will be waiting at Osaka for him. As the plane departs, Sendō realises he forgot his souvenir while he was talking to Ippo.
After Ippo asks for a doctor recommendation from Miyazaki, he goes to the Yamaguchi Chiropractic where he meets the doctor, Yamaguchi Tomoko. Yamaguchi informs Ippo that his shoulder and fist can not keep up with his hitting power, which is why he injures his arm with the impact every time. She then instructs Ippo to put his fist under ice in order to be able to fight in his next match and to also build his shoulder muscles in order for his shoulder to withstand his punches. Meanwhile in Osaka, Sendō receives a package from Ippo, containing his souvenir he forgot and note claiming that he might be able to go to Osaka. Sendō gets fired up from the note, not wanting to waste a second on training, as Ippo would be coming in his best condition.
Kamogawa and Yagi return from Thailand after finding two possible opponents for Takamura. Kamogawa notices Ippo training and putting his right fist in a bucket of ice. Ippo then explains to Kamogawa and Yagi that he plans on drugging his fist in order to fight Sendō. After Yagi tries to talk Ippo out of it, Kamogawa knows that Ippo is too stubborn to listen, and begins to show him tapes of Sendō fighting. Kamogawa explains how powerful Sendō is, intending to pull Ippo away from fighting him, however it had the opposite effect. Kamogawa decides to let Ippo train so he is ready for the match and will decide if Ippo's ready or not on the day of the match. Kamogawa has Ippo and Takamura do a stamina training exercise that he came up with, called the "Airplane Ride Back". During the training, Yamaguchi meets with Kamogawa, explaining how the training improves the back muscles of shoulders, which is perfect for Ippo's situation. Kamogawa predicts that unless Ippo's power is at 100%, it would be hard to win. Yamaguchi then suggests having her to do a check up in Osaka so that his right fist is as close to 100% as possible.
With a week until their match, Ippo and Sendō continue to train, with the latter having support from local shops. Two days before the match, the Kamogawa group arrive at the Ishino Boxing Gym in Osaka. Kamogawa has Ippo partake in a spar with the lightweight eight-rounder, Komori. The spar ends abruptly when Ippo finds out he can not throw his right, due to him subconsciously stopping it to avoid damaging his fist. Kamogawa wants to know if Ippo can really hit with his right, however, the next day Ippo is unable to hit Kamogawa's mitt correctly. As Kamogawa begins to quit and pack for Tokyo, Takamura offered Ippo advice when he sprained his right wrist before a match. Takamura would then win with just one punch from his right in just fifteen seconds in the first round before he felt any pain. As Ippo wonders what would happen if he and Sendō throws their best punch after hearing Takamura's story, Kamogawa instructs Ippo to cool his fist so he can throw the one punch he wants.
All Japan Rookie King Tournament - Makunouchi Ippo VS. Sendō Takeshi
The next day, Ippo and Sendō arrive to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium for their match. In Ippo's waiting room, due to Ippo being unable to clinch his fist hard enough to punch, Yamaguchi, who arrived to Osaka, gives Ippo a shot containing pain killers to smother the pain. Meanwhile, in Sendō's waiting room, despite being informed that Ippo was downed in his recent spar, Sendō still does not want to underestimate Ippo, as he is always strong in the ring. The match is about to begin as Ippo and Sendō walk to the ring, with the cheers for Sendō vastly outnumbering Ippo, leaving Umezawa, Takemura, and Matsuda feeling threatened if they cheered for Ippo. In the ring, Kamogawa informs Ippo to not worry about the surroundings, as his only opponent is Sendō. Kamogawa asks Ippo about the shot, which Ippo answers that he has no idea as he can not feel his fist.
When the match begins, Sendō immediately knocks Ippo's guard away with two jabs. Ippo backs away to the ropes from the pressure Sendō emits. Knowing that being defensive will not cut it, tries to strike with a left, but Sendō immediately hits back making Ippo go back to blocking. Ippo gets closer to Sendō and stops at close range as he decides that he has to use his right to defeat Sendō. Ippo tries to aim his right by throwing a left jab, however he gets hit by a right from Sendō. Kamogawa tells Ippo to strike with a body blow to stop his movements only for Ippo to be hit by one. After getting hit by another body blow, Ippo notices Sendō stopped his movements, and lands a right, discovering that he felt no pain after throwing his right. Ippo, now knowing his right fist is safe to hit with, goes on the offence, making Sendō defensive. After hitting Sendō with an uppercut, the first round ends. With Ippo surprised that Sendō's punches are different from the videos, Kamogawa informs him that Sendō must be thinking the same, as his right is fine. Sendō is thrilled that Ippo "woke up" and that he experienced a punch he had dealt to others before.
When the second round begins, Sendō throws a left Smash, which hits Ippo's guard. Sendō then gets in a crouching position and hits Ippo with an uppercut from below. After dodging another Smash, Ippo gets close to Sendō, making him unable to use his Smash due to it being a middle-range technique. After taking a breather from the close-range brawl, Sendō steps back and motions for a Smash. Ippo attempts to counter Smash's uppercut with a hook, a tactic he trained for to go against Hayami's short uppercut, but fails when it turns out to be a feint. Sendō then lands a right straight that gets shoulder blocked. Sendō immediately uses the Low Smash that barely hits Ippo, who has to hold onto the ropes to stay up. Before Sendō is able to deliver the seemingly final hit, the referee gets between them, ending the second round with Ippo being saved by the gong. When asked to sit down by his cornermen, Ippo informs them that if he sat down, he would not be able to stand back up. He also has something left to do, so he can not afford to sit down. As Ippo leaves the corner, Kamogawa remembers the same words Ippo spoke when he fought against Miyata.
Right as third round begins, Sendō becomes shocked when he sees Ippo dropping his usual Peek-a-Boo style stance for Sendō's more opened stance, creating a mirror image. Angered at the thought of someone trying to use the Smash on him on their first try, Sendō attacks as Ippo dodges and tries to measure the distance. Ippo then hits Sendō with the punch that downed Miyata in the second spar, which Sendō initially thought was the Smash due to the punch being similar to his own Smash. The two fighters then exchanges punches at the same time that leads to them both being off balance. They then launch punches again, this time with Sendō being the only one hit with Ippo's one centimetre punch, resulting in Sendō's first down in the match. Sendō stands back up, thrilled at Ippo's power. Sendō's damage becomes clear as he wobbles from a jab. Leaning on the rope, Sendō switches places with Ippo by grabbing him and pushing him into the rope and delivers a strong body blow, almost toppling over from his own recoil. After both fighters exchange multiple punches with each other, Ippo lands a direct right at Sendō's temple. Sendō does not react at all and begins to strike Ippo directly multiple times. As the gong to end the third round sounds, Sendō continues to beat Ippo's unguarded head and body, as both Sendō and the referee are unable to hear the gong due to the crowd's cheering. After ten seconds of the gong ringing, the referee notices and ends the round.
After Kamogawa forces Ippo to sit down, Ippo wonders why his punches aren't working and how Sendō is still standing after the right to the temple. Despite knowing that he took the most punches, Ippo claims he still has not lost, wanting to continue. Yanaoka praises Sendō's performance, and, as the announcer calls for seconds out, Sendō appears to not be listening as he remains seated. The referee ends the match after looking at Sendō, who is revealed to be unconscious and unable to move. Yanaoka notices Sendō was unconscious after taking a clean hit to the temple and only moved due to the cheers. Ippo is shocked as his hand is raised as the victor of the All Japan Rookie Tournament, becoming the Rookie King. Ippo walks away from the ring after feeling like the win was a dream and imagining Sendō still sitting down, waiting to fight Ippo. In the waiting room, Sendō wakes up and want to know how he lost, which Yanaoka just claims it was a splendid match. Ippo, after hearing that Sendō claimed "today I've lost", feels that he really won.
Later that night, a celebration party is held at the Plum Village. The party ends short after a drunk Kamogawa counters Takamura's incoming punch, causing the latter to knock out his coach. The group then leaves to go to an adult location, much to Ippo's dismay.
|Rocky of Naniwa Arc|