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The Class A Tournament: Speed Star Arc, also known as Makunouchi Ippo VS. Saeki Takuma, is the eighth story arc in the series and the third in the Class A Contender Saga.

Makunouchi Ippo gets ready for the Class A Tournament in order for a chance to face against the champion, Date Eiji. However, his mother is sent to the hospital due to overwork, causing Ippo to have to run the Makunouchi Fishing Boat business instead of continuing boxing. After his friend, Umezawa Masahiko offers to help with the business so that Ippo can continue boxing, Ippo faces against the "Speed Star", Saeki Takuma in the first round of the Class A Tournament.

Summary

Class A Tournament Announcement

Kumiko visits the Kamogawa gym

Kumiko visiting the Kamogawa gym.

Due to a new boxing boom, a television station visits the Kamogawa Boxing Gym in order to capture how the youth put their hopes in boxing. The interviewer is the idol, Kumiko Morita, who becomes well-liked by the members of the gym. After the members show their boxing to the television crew, spar with Kumiko, and get interviewed about their goals, the television crew leaves the gym. When the event gets shown on television, Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura realises that Ippo sent a challenge to the JBC featherweight champion Date Eiji by saying that he wants to fight Date on a national broadcast. The broadcast then shows Kumiko arriving at the Otowa Boxing Gym, where the third ranked boxer from Russia, Alexander Volg Zangief, claims that he wishes to becomes a world champion in professional boxing, with Date's Japanese title as his first step.

Yamada winning his Pro Test

Yamada winning the spar at the Pro Test.

After sparring with Ippo, Yamada leaves for his Pro Test. At the Kōrakuen Hall, Yamada was nervous after passing the written exam, however, he passes the Pro Test spar after downing his opponent.

When Yamada and the rest of the gym members get back to the gym, Kamogawa and Yagi announces the Class A Tournament entry list. The entry list shows Aoki's lightweight class having eight opponents, Kimura's junior lightweight class having the previous featherweight, Mashiba, and Ippo's featherweight class having Volg against Suzuki Toshio and Ippo against the second ranked Olympic representative, Saeki Takuma. Takamura then invites Ippo, Aoki, Kimura, and Yamada to go to the annual training camp to prepare for the Class A Tournament and for Yamada to catch up to Aoki and Kimura. At the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Ippo informs his mother, about the recent events and asks her if he can go to the training camp for a week, while she allowed him to. At the gym, Kamogawa reveals the date when the gym would go to the training camp, which makes Ippo fire up and begin mitt training with Kamogawa until Yagi urgently tells Ippo that his mother was sent to the hospital after collapsing.

Overwork

Hiroko in the hospital

Hiroko hospitalised.

Upon hearing the sudden news of his mother being sent to the hospital after collapsing, Ippo rushes to the hospital and meets Miyazaki. Miyazaki claims that Hiroko fell after getting off the boat and that she needs to be hospitalised for a month due to anaemia from overwork. Seeing his mother in the hospital bed, Ippo regrets not noticing her being overworked before, feeling that he was selfish for making his mother work on the boat alone while he does things that he wants to do. Ippo then begins working at the fishing boat, noticing how hard it must be for his mother to work on the boat and make his meals on top of that. At the hospital, Hiroko suggests closing the business for a month or selling the spot in the port so that Ippo can continue training for his next match, but Ippo refused, as he does not want to give away the boat that his father left them and he can do basic exercises while away from the gym.

Seeing that it is impossible to do the fishing boat business and boxing, he chooses to work at the boat to help his mother. When he returns to the hospital, he sees his mother getting ready to leave two weeks before getting cleared. Knowing that his mother will just push herself too hard when she gets out, Ippo tells her that he will not quit boxing, but it will be a hobby while he works at the boat. Hearing from Yagi that Ippo's retiring, Fujii visits Ippo and gives him tapes of Saeki's matches. Fujii then attempts to stop Ippo from retiring, but was told by Ippo to leave him alone.

IppoReturnsFromRetirement

Ippo returns from the short retirement.

During a typhoon, Umezawa visits Ippo, offering his help at the fishing boat so that he can draw a manga as a mangaka about a boxer's rise of fame and becoming a champion, with the boxer being based off of Ippo, and if he quits boxing it would ruin his manga. After three days of helping at the fishing boat business, Umezawa had thoughts of quitting until he sees Ippo shadowbox. The next day Ippo was surprised to see Umezawa, who tells him to go do roadwork so that he can be a mangaka as Ippo boxes. The Kamogawa gym members return to the gym after being away for a week at the training camp and is shocked to see Ippo in the gym, as they thought he quit. Takamura decides to have Ippo spar with him as a welcoming ceremony. After Ippo goes down, he begins to cry tears of happiness, as he's happy that he's back.

Class A Tournament: Round One - Makunouchi Ippo VS. Saeki Takuma

Saeki vs Date

Saeki sparring against Date.

After Kamogawa helped Ippo train with a sandbag, he realised the right body blows he threw hurt him through the sandbag. He talks with Ippo about his body blows, which Ippo had already planned to use in his strategy against the out-boxer Saeki, surprising Kamogawa, who then decides to let him enter the Class A Tournament. Fujii and his assistant arrives to the Nakadai Boxing Gym where they watch a spar between Saeki and Date, who could not land any punches against the "Speed Star". When the spar ended, Date expressed his hate towards types like Saeki and knows that Saeki didn't give it his all, realising that Saeki is not an opponent Ippo can defeat with only a couple plans. After getting advice from Kimura that an out-boxer's worst opponent is someone that is faster than them, Ippo decides to be faster than Saeki, starting by finding his own rhythm.

A week before the first round of the Class A Tournament, Ippo attempts to use out-boxing in a spar against Yamada, but realises that he can not throw punches while doing footwork. He then comes up with a plan after talking with Yamada. At the Touyou College of Athletics, Saeki talks with his former captain about how he finds the pro boxing world a thrill after leaving the amateur boxing scene. Saeki then hopes that Ippo can give him the greatest thrill yet in their match. Ippo and Umezawa go to the hospital where Hiroko is being released at. There, Ippo receives new boxing trunks that his mother sewed and boxing shoes that Umezawa bought. That night, Umezawa notices Ippo poking holes in his new shoes, which Ippo tells him it is to reduce traction, and that he will definitely win his next match.

On the day of the first round of the Class A Tournament, Ippo bumps into Saeki in the weigh-in. Saeki comments on Ippo's fists and then tells Ippo to come at him with everything he has. At the waiting room, Umezawa visits a nervous Ippo, wanting to take a picture of him for his mother as he figures that she does not want to see a picture after her son got beaten up. However, the film pops out of the camera and before he could fix it, the Kōrakuen Hall caller tells Ippo to get ready for the match. Umezawa apologises to Ippo for coming in nervous, but Kamogawa tells Umezawa that he is thankful.

Ippo vs Saeki

Ippo vs. Saeki.

In the ring before the match begins, Ippo explains to Kamogawa that he will stop his legs, planning to only attack when he comes to him. Saeki's coach warns him of Ippo's power and that he has more experience in the professional world than Saeki. When the match begins, Ippo enters the Peek-a-Boo style while Saeki keeps his distance, going in a clockwise motion around Ippo. Knowing that Ippo is waiting for him, Saeki tests Ippo by walking towards him and opens his guard in a "Free-Shot" pose. Ippo begins throwing punches that Saeki dodges and then a body blow that gets blocked, but pushes Saeki back from the power. Saeki then uses his speed to run around Ippo, dodging punches at close range and beginning to feel thrilled. Saeki notices that he is closer to the corner, figuring out that this is the plan Ippo is going to use to land his punches. Ippo throws more punches now that Saeki is in the corner, however Saeki dodges every punch while moving closer to Ippo. Ippo throws another punch, but is shocked to witness Saeki dodging and appearing behind him suddenly. The round then shortly ends after Saeki dodges another punch. At the corner, Ippo believes he is out of options since cornering Saeki does not work. Kamogawa instructs him that the waiting tactic is not wrong, and to aim for only body blows when Saeki is cornered.

Saeki creates Ippo's blindspot

Ippo's right eye damaged from Saeki, creating a blind spot.

When the second round begins, Ippo pressures Saeki into a corner and begins punching Saeki, who successfully dodges the punches. Ippo then sees a chance for a hit, however Saeki creates extra space by leaning into the ropes, dodging the punch. Saeki then gets out of the corner and begins hitting Ippo successfully using Flicker Jabs, putting him into a corner. When Ippo runs out of the corner, he realises his right eye can not open up due to swelling from the Flicker Jabs. Saeki begins using Ippo's swollen right eye to his advantage, going outside of Ippo's vision and hitting him with a right before the second round ends. In the corner, Kamogawa notices Ippo can't see in his right eye and asks him what did he want to accomplish during the match. Ippo answers that he wants to show everyone who is worried about him that he is alright. Kamogawa then tells Ippo to show them that he is alright with one hit. When round three begins, Ippo attempts to get closer to Saeki to create a smaller blind spot, however Saeki opened the distance and gets into Ippo's blind spot again, landing hits on Ippo's face multiple times. Saeki hits Ippo with a body blow, causing Ippo to begin to fall until Ippo remembers that Umezawa told him not to fall on the advertisement as it would be bad advertising for the Makunouchi Fishing Boat. Saeki continues hitting Ippo, who then falls forward, leaning on Saeki as the third round ends. Kamogawa gets Ippo into the corner, relieved how lucky it was for Ippo to fall on Saeki. Ippo then tells Kamogawa that he figured something out to catch Saeki after stumbling on him. In Saeki's corner, Saeki asks his coach if his rhythm is off. The coach informs Saeki that his rhythm has not been off at all since round one.

Ippo defeating Saeki

Ippo landing the final hit on Saeki.

When the fourth round begins, Saeki rushes forward and hits Ippo with multiple punches until Ippo throws a punch into his blind spot, making Saeki step back to avoid getting hit by "lucky" punches. After Saeki hits Ippo again from his blind spot, he makes another attempt, however Ippo realised where he was coming from and lands a punch on Saeki's face and then a body blow, making Saeki go down. When the shocked Saeki stands back up, he gets back into Ippo's blind spot only to be hit again and pushed out of Ippo's blind spot. Ippo then throws punches that get dodged. Saeki notices that his body keeps freezing up. Ippo lands a punch to Saeki's face again and then an uppercut, knocking Saeki down. Saeki stands back up, believing his legs are still alive, he however falls back down with the referee ending the match with Ippo winning and passing the first round of the Class A Tournament.

While walking to the waiting room, Ippo passes Volg, who thought Ippo was the loser due to him being beaten up, realising that he is his next opponent. Kamogawa and Yagi has Umezawa stay with Ippo while they act as seconds for Aoki and Kimura. Umezawa leaves to get water after Ippo asks Umezawa to get him water. Saeki enters Ippo's room and asks why he could find him while he was in Ippo's blind spot. Ippo answers that it was because Saeki's rhythm was so precise. Saeki leaves the room, surprised how his rhythm was his own demise. Umezawa enters the room to give Ippo water. Umezawa wondered how Ippo did not fall during the match, but Ippo tells him it was because he was told not to fall on the advertisement, thanking Umezawa. Umezawa then attempts to take a picture of Ippo again only for the camera film to pop out again.

Trivia

  • The "Speed Star Arc" (スピードスター編) name was taken from Best Bout's book Saeki Takuma VS. Makunouchi Ippo.

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