As the Class A Tournament ends, the Champion Carnival begins. With Takamura Mamoru defending his JBC middleweight title against Tamaki Atsushi, Makunouchi Ippo fights against the JBC featherweight champion Date Eiji.
Three days after Ippo's match against Volg, Umezawa drives Hiroko to the Kawai Hospital where Ippo is being held. After Hiroko checks Ippo's temperature, Volg enters the room, immediately apologising to Hiroko for causing Ippo's injured condition. Hiroko reassures Volg that it happened in a match so it is fine and begins peeling an apple for Volg as he remembers his own mother. After eating the apple, Volg wonders if Hiroko is worried about her son, but Hiroko tells him that a mother seeing her son work hard is a wonderful thing for any mother. Volg then leaves, thanking Hiroko and ponders what he should write in a letter to his mother, but knows that he will end it with that he is doing his best. Ippo then wakes up and Hiroko explains what happened prior to him waking up. Takamura, Aoki, Kimura, and nurse Reiko enters the room as it is time to take Ippo's urine. Takamura and Kimura then holds Ippo as Aoki gets ready to drain his urine. Shocked at the realisation that the three were draining his urine for three days, Ippo runs to the bathroom to do it himself. As Reiko leaves, Takamura asks about the group date they talked about earlier. Reiko claims that the nurses are excited to go out with boxers and one of them knows a lot about boxing as she has a brother that boxes. As Ippo walks out of the bathroom, he becomes shocked when he sees Kumi greeting him as a nurse.
Kumi says to Ippo that after Ippo defeated her brother, she and Ryō do not hate him and that Ryō has been working hard at boxing since then, even winning the Class A Tournament. Before running off, she tells Ippo that she is relived to see Ippo healthy again. Ippo is then released from the hospital two days later and receives a call from Aoki for him to go to the celebration party. When Ippo arrives to the meeting spot, Reiko, Megumi, Tomiko, and Kumi arrives as well. Ippo was reluctant at doing the celebration with his money at first until he saw Kumi. After going out to eat at the Great Tokyo Era Izakaya, everyone goes to the Rosa Bowl in order to find out who picks which woman to go out with, by winning order. After the bowling competition, the scores ends with Aoki being first, Kimura and Takamura tied at second, and Ippo last. Aoki picks Tomiko, Kimura picks Reiko, Takamura picks Megumi, and Ippo goes with Kumi to take her home. When Ippo escorts Kumi home, she asks him to come inside. Inside, Kumi makes Ippo coffee and notices Ippo being nervous, wondering if he is scared of her brother. When Ippo expresses how he wonders how it would go if he fought Ryō, thinking that he might just be getting carried away thinking about it, Ryō appears behind him suggesting that he is. Ryō's appearance frightens Ippo and quickly leaves the house. Outside, Ryō walks up to Ippo, scaring him again, however Ryō tells him that they both have title matches coming up, claiming that he will win and secretly encourages Ippo telling him to win too.
When Ippo returns to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym, he notices Kimura being more active, which Kimura tells him that it is because Reiko wished him luck on his comeback match. After Ippo reveals his experience with Kumi and Ryō, Takamura enters the gym and claims that he had to go home early due to the Champion Carnival beginning soon, not wanting to underestimate the ultimate challenger. Kamogawa announces that the dates for the Champion Carnival are January for middleweight and February for featherweights. He then hands Takamura the latest issue of the Priday magazine which contains an article of Takamura trying to force Megumi into a love hotel until she ran away, with Kamogawa calling Takamura a Pervert King. Takamura begins trying to tease Ippo and Kimura until Ippo mentions Aoki, which causes Takamura wanting to call him to laugh at him as he believes his date left him. After Ippo believes to have called the wrong number, Takamura calls Aoki and everyone becomes shocked when they hear Tomiko on the phone.
Nightmare in Mexico
At the Nakadai Boxing Gym, Date comes back from roadwork and begins sparring with a lightweight and a junior welterweight boxer. Nakadai explains to Okita how Date is not underestimating Ippo, however, Nakadai believes Date to be greater and that if he regains his peak from six years ago when he challenged the world, his opponent will be in trouble. In the Kamogawa gym, Ippo has trouble forming an image of Date and requests to go to Takamura's house to view a video of Date. Takamura shows him a magazine of the match due to a video not existing. Ippo is shocked when he sees the article showing Date being defeated by the WBA featherweight champion Ricardo Martinez in the second round. After hearing details of Date's past, Ippo is asked how he will fight, which he claims that as Date has no weakness, there is no plan but will plan to throw everything at him as the ultimate challenger. In the Nakadai gym, Nakadai remarks on how cold Japan is at the moment, causing Date to remember how they left Japan in the winter to go to Mexico where it was like summer. Due to the cold, the scar on Date's nose throbs, forcing him to remember a memory of the day he lost everything.
Six years ago, Date and Nakadai travelled to Mexico with the hopes of defeating the WBA featherweight champion Ricardo and for his wife, Date Aiko to rest easily, with his yet to be born son standing tall. However, at the Azteca Stadium, Date quickly lost to the champion in the second round. Though disheartened from losing without being able to do anything and gaining a scar on his nose, Date decided that he would try again, but first he wanted to see Aiko. Date and Nakadai visited Aiko in the hospital and got informed that she collapsed at the stairs and had a miscarriage. Date then decided to retire from boxing. Some time later, Date and Aiko had a new son, Date Yūji and Date began working at a new job as a salary man. Date began having dreams of him becoming champion and holding his son that did become born.
Date continued having peaceful days after retiring, however he did not feel alive. Eventually Date attempted to throw his trophies away, not wanting to keep his memories of boxing. Aiko then changed Date's mind when she told him that the Date that left for Mexico three years ago has not come back and that Yūji will not know the true appearance of his father. Hearing Aiko say that she wants him to show her, Yūji, and their child that was not born his true appearance, Date decided to train to go back into boxing and left his salary job. Date then had Nakadai to be his trainer once more and became the Japanese champion again after two matches.
Back in the present, Date mentions how Nakadai told him to think about the training camp for his match against Ippo, but he tells Aiko that he will be rejecting the idea. Aiko speculates that it is because Date worried about leaving the house, so she reminds him how Yūji is growing up fine and that she is well. Date then decides to go to the Ooarai Golf Course, the same training camp he used to go against Ricardo. At the same time, Ippo and Takamura is at a training camp for their Champion Carnival matches along with Aoki and Kimura for their return matches.
The Weight of the Champion's Fists
The Champion Carnival arrives with middleweight champion Takamura defending his title against Tamaki Atsushi. At the Kōrakuen Hall where the weigh-in before the match is about to begin, Ippo meets Fujii who informs Ippo that the odds are 6-4 in the champion's favour and gives details about Tamaki. When Ippo and Fujii arrive at the weigh-in, everyone is in shock as Takamura is 200g over the weight limit. Takamura attempts to shed the weight off before the next weight check in three hours by running, however due to it being winter, he does not sweat while running outside. Takamura then goes to a sauna, with Ippo following him in. Takamura notes how in the rankings, even if you are number one, the champion is still above the first ranker. He clarifies that it is because the champion is like the name, it is special and Takamura orders Ippo to open his eyes wide and watch his match, as he will show him the power of a champion. After barely passing the weight check, Takamura heads to the ring. Ippo then meets Date, who came to see Takamura off. Date comments how the match will be difficult even for Takamura, however Ippo tells Date how Takamura told him that champions have a special power. Date determines that Takamura will win then, as Date believes Takamura's punches will be heavy for the fight. He then claims that it will carry over their match as well, telling Ippo that his punches will be light.
When Takamura's match against Tamaki begins, Takamura has trouble against Tamaki and is up against the ropes. Takamura attempts to escape, however his is unable to. Takamura blocks a powerful right straight that sends his body flying to the ropes. Takamura is then hit in the face with Tamaki's right straight and stays standing, causing Ippo to wonder how Takamura can still stand as the first round ends. Knowing the burden of being a champion and wanting to continue being Aoki, Kimura, and Ippo's goal, Takamura is determined to not lose. When the second round begins, Takamura is pushed to the ropes again, getting hit multiple times by Tamaki. After getting hit by a right, Takamura loses consciousness and his hips begin to drop. Tamaki can not move to take the chance to attack as Takamura's eyes do not look like he is about to be downed, causing Tamaki to question himself. Takamura comes back to consciousness, realising that Tamaki was scared and did not attack. Takamura notices how Tamaki is not attacking and confuses him with eye feints. Tamaki decides to attack, successfully hitting Takamura and landing a counter the makes Takamura begin to fall. Takamura stops his fall and delivers a combination of punches until Tamaki falls. Takamura is then declared the winner of the match. An interview is then held, where the audience mentions the magazine article where Takamura got rejected. As the comments continued from the audience, Takamura gets angry and grabs the female interviewer and tells the audience to look how happy she is, despite her being visibly upset.
After leaving the Kōrakuen Hall, Ippo asks Takamura if his punches are light as Date said. Hearing Ippo wonder if it is the power of his punches, Takamura realises that Ippo misunderstood the meaning behind Date's words. Takamura tells him that if Ippo, Aoki, and Kimura were not at the hall cheering, his punches would have been a bit lighter. He explains that the champion's fist holds the feelings of people who trust them, look up to them, and aim for them. Takamura however claims that it does not mean the champion will always win, as the crowd is split in the Champion Carnival.
Later, the junior lightweight Champion Carnival arrives. Ippo receives a phone call from Kimura informing him that the champion lost against Mashiba while expressing that he does not want to challenge him, however he plans to have Mashiba as his goal. Ippo then receives a call from Kumi, asking for Ippo to come to her house to celebrate her brother's win. When Ippo arrives, he arrives in a dark room alone with Mashiba. Ippo questions Mashiba about the match, but only receives short answers and that he fought the champion like he did anyone else. Kumi enters the room with party supplies. With the light on in the room, Ippo realises that Mashiba had a tough seven round match after looking at his beaten face. Ippo then leaves the house after celebrating and walks with Kumi to a taxi. Kumi mentions how Ippo's title match is soon, and tells him that she will throw a party to congratulate him. When Kumi notes how Mashiba claimed that he did the match like always, Ippo comes to a realisation that doing the title match like always and give it everything he has may be the only way to do it.
Champion Carnival - Makunouchi Ippo VS. Date Eiji
After watching a recording of Mashiba winning his title match, watching his and Date's interview for their match, and getting encouragement from Umezawa, Ippo goes to the Kamogawa gym where a group of reporters are there for his public spar. Ippo spars against the Philippines fourth ranker where it seemed like Ippo was having trouble at first until his "engine started" and quickly defeats the fourth ranker. When the fourth ranker left the gym, Fujii asked for his impressions on Ippo. The fourth ranker noted his left liver blow to be incredible, predicting that even Date would go down. Fujii points out how when Ippo uses his liver blow, his left guard is open, and figures that Date will take the chance to use his Heart Break Shot. Fujii then watches Ippo spar against Kimura through the window, and notices that Kamogawa had came up with a solution for that: close the distance and keep the left guard fully protected and then deliver a liver blow in a distance of 10 cm. The day before the match, Tomiko visits the gym to see where her boyfriend, Aoki trains. Tomiko brought tarot cards with her and Aoki suggests to use them. They go in Kamogawa's room and Tomiko commences her fortune telling. When she slowly begins to get something Takamura, who did not believe her at first, right, he quickly tells her to stop. Ippo enters the room and Aoki tries to get him to listen to Tomiko's fortune telling for the outcome of his match, but he refuses at first, leaving the room. He then comes back as the results are coming up, but before Tomiko completes it, Kamogawa yells at them, causing them to end it.
As the boxer's leave, Kamogawa and Yagi reminisces when Ippo first opened the door to the gym and now he is going to fight the Japanese champion. Date goes to his doctor for a check-up, which, due to Date's results being like he was before his world title match, the doctor pities Date's opponent. Date however, does not pity Ippo, as he still has youth, but Date plans to give him the fight of his life. In the waiting room on the day of the match, Date has retirement on his mind if he loses to Ippo as he would not have a future beyond Japan if can not defeat everyone there.
With both boxer's in the ring, the match begins. In the first round, Date notices how Ippo is guard his left side to eliminate his Corkscrew Blow. Date begins to test Ippo by throwing jabs and sees that Ippo has grown from their spar as he dodges and is able to throw attacks while dodging. Ippo and Date throw punches at each other with no punches landing cleanly until Date leaves his left side open after missing an uppercut. Seeing no way to block it in time, Date decides to take the hit and Ippo delivers a liver blow. Ippo realises that Date was waiting for him to attack to leave himself open and now he is open for Date to hit him as he is unable to block. Date hits Ippo with a left straight. Ippo rushes towards Date, who backs up to the ropes. Ippo sees a right hook incoming and blocks his face, however Date hits him under the ear. Date continues to show the difference in experience and throws a Corkscrew Blow after landing a counter, however Ippo blocks it and pushes Date to the ropes. Date notices that Ippo is planning to hit him from a clinch distance, but deduces that Ippo can't land a good hit from that distance. He is then surprised when Ippo lands a liver blow, making Date's body buckle over. Ippo continues pushing Date back with a barrage to his guard. Ippo lands a clean right to Date's face. Date attempts to clinch until he remembers that Ippo can throw a liver blow at that range and quickly lets go when Ippo began the motion. The round then ends when Ippo pushes Date to the ropes again, ending the round with a draw in points. In the corner, Date claims that he knew that Ippo would improve, but not that much and titles Ippo as his greatest challenger.
When the second round begins, Date attempts to beat Ippo at his best range in an in-fight, which causes Date trouble as he gets hit and barely able to keep his guard up. Date notices Ippo is about to use the liver blow and blocks his right side, however it turns out to be a feint. Ippo then lands a barrage of punches to Date's face, as his neck swings from every blow until the second round ends. Kamogawa wonders why Ippo looks shocked as it looked like a good offence until Ippo informs him that Date did not take any damage despite hitting him at full swing. Kamogawa does not believe that to be the case and instructs Ippo to not change the fight plan. Okita suggests to Date to keep his distance and recover as staying in Ippo's best range is suicide, however Date tells Okita that that is also his boxing.
The third round begins and Date rushes towards Ippo looking for another in-fight. Date is only able to land some light punches as Ippo attacks Date's guard. Ippo lands a body blow and begins hitting Date's face again, however Date spins his neck to roll the punches, negating the damage. Date then hits Ippo with a left jab, causing hit to go down. Ippo gets back up as he is in shock as his punches seem to be doing no damage. Ippo goes for body blows, but the punches are unable to do damage due to Date moving his guard along with Ippo's punches at the moment of impact. Kamogawa theorises that Date is able to predict Ippo's movements to be able to neutralise his punches. Nakadai notes that Date's instincts allows him to predict Ippo's movements and he measured Ippo's physical and mental levels during his exchanges. Thinking that if he doesn't land any clean punches, he won't be able to knock Date down, Ippo attempts to throw a big punch. However Date counters it and Ippo is hit with a combination of attacks until the gong sounds ending the round. Ippo begins questioning himself if he is being too predictable. Kamogawa tells Ippo that he is using instincts and intelligence cultivated from years of experience. Kamogawa informs Ippo that in-fighters are small, concise, and fast, with Date believing that he will knockout Ippo in the following round.
In the fourth round, Date quickly begins to hit Ippo with clean punches. After Date uses the Neck Spin to neutralise an attack, Ippo lands a left right after Date put his head in the normal position. Ippo then landed a liver blow and a Gazelle Punch, however much to his shock, Date still stands, with Ippo wondering if his punches are light. Ippo then felt the weight of a champion's fist as Date unleashes a full powered right, going through Ippo's guard and hitting him. Date then lands multiple hits until he attacks with a punch from above. Ippo, wanting to give it his all like he said to Takamura, throws an uppercut, hitting Date cleanly. Damaged from the attack, Date barely dodges Ippo's incoming attack, with the round ending shortly after. In the corner, barely able to speak, he tells Kamogawa that he will not stop until he gives everything he has, as he is the challenger and is unable to hear what Kamogawa is instructing.
In round five, Ippo successfully blocks Date's Corkscrew Blows out of pure faith in Kamogawa. Ippo and Date have a battle of exchanges, with Ippo eventually leaning on Date and attacking him. When Date gets far enough away from Ippo, Ippo falls from his own weight, resulting in himself getting downed. Ippo slowly gets up, looking for Date. When he finds Date, Ippo walks up to him, and, after a quick exchange, readies a liver blow. Seeing this, Date steps back and lands the Heart Break Shot on Ippo. Just as Date was about to land another hit on the frozen Ippo, the referee stops the match as Kamogawa has thrown the towel into the ring while Ippo falls down, resulting in Date winning and Ippo losing for the first time in his career. Date is thankful to Ippo for recovering past feelings, as they shake hands.
Elsewhere in the hall, Sendō is in disbelief that Ippo could lose, originally coming to Kōrakuen Hall to ask for a challenge while Ippo is standing in the ring as the new champion. He rips up his letter of challenge and throws it, with Volg dodging the paper. After glaring at each other, Volg walks away as Sendō predicts that they both will settle it soon, as those who aim for Ippo are bound to clash. Fujii notes how now Date will most likely relinquish the belt and move to the world stage, causing a generation change for the JBC featherweight belt with Ippo, Sendō, and Volg. Fujii then spots Miyata, who just came back to Japan, however he could not catch up to him in time. Miyata realises that the first lost will be big for Ippo and wishes for Ippo to come back stronger than he was before. Takamura attempts to go into Ippo's waiting room but is stopped by Aoki and Kimura due to Takamura's history of making the person who lost feel worse. The three then enter the room while Kamogawa apologises to Ippo for his poor planning as Ippo apologises himself. Takamura tells Ippo that he did a good job, shocking everyone in the room. Feeling insulted that they are shocked about Takamura saying something nice, Takamura begins giving Ippo negative comments until Kamogawa kicks him out. Ippo then thanks everyone for their cheering.
- The "Challenge for the Throne Arc" (王座初挑戦編) name was taken from Best Bout's book Date Eiji VS. Makunouchi Ippo.
|Challenge for the Throne Arc|