Makunouchi Ippo has his fifth JBC featherweight title defence match against the "Owari Dragon" Sawamura Ryūhei, who uses fouls, the Bullet, and Flash. He also warns Ippo before the match about how his Dempsey Roll is a clumsy technique and will fall apart. Despite this, Ippo begins to make plans on evolving his Dempsey Roll. Sendō Takeshi makes a return in the ring since his title defence loss against Ippo. Ippo meets Kobashi Kenta and Alexander Volg Zangief as well. Takamura Mamoru also defends his WBC junior middlweight title for the first time against Larry Bernard.
A week after Aoki's title match loss against Katsutaka Imae, his gym mates at the Kamogawa gym begin to think he is retiring. Ippo is visited by Kobashi Kenta, who reveals that he lost his JBC junior featherweight in his first title defence and had recently retired without regrets. Kobashi tells Ippo how he was lucky to have met him as he taught him something important while fighting him. Kobashi then explains that he became a trainer a month ago and informed Ippo that everyone from last year's East Japan Rookie King Tournament besides Miyata, Mashiba, and Sendō had retired. Ippo is then asked why he started boxing by Kobashi, to which he answered that he wanted to become stronger, but he still has not found the answer. Kobashi walks away after saying that he would keep watching Ippo to see how far he has to go to be satisfied.
Later, Aoki enters the Kamogawa gym after his long absence. Aoki expressed to everyone how he considered retiring, however, he introduced to his gym mats, Akamatsu Isamu and Kizakura Hiroshi, who sees Aoki as their master when Aoki "accidentally" showed them a dream and gave them hope during his match against Imae. Aoki decided he would not retire for their sake. The two Aoki fans would not listen to anyone at the gym but Aoki and would not want to do roadwork with the others. When Itagaki and Kimura learned how Isamu and Hiroshi would get picked on all their life, Kimura and Itagaki suggested to look up to Takamura or Ippo instead of Aoki to better themselves. Isamu and Hiroshi told them the reason they don't is because Takamura reeks of talent and Ippo reeks of hard work, while they look up to Aoki as they want to win without trying. Isamu and Hiroshi were then relieved the see Aoki return from work as they feel like they were about to die from roadwork. Aoki learned that Ippo went to Osaka, realising that he went there to see Sendō's comeback match.
Return of the Naniwa Tiger and the Entrance of the Owari Dragon - Sawamura Ryūhei
At the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Sendō wins by knockout out in the first round in his come-back match. Wanting to meet Sendō, Ippo goes to his changing room where he encounters Sawamura Ryūhei, who he recognises as the third ranked featherweight in the JBC. Sawamura wishes to not be friendly toward Ippo, denying a handshake and walking out of the room after warning Ippo to not use the Dempsey Roll against him as he views the technique as a clumsy one that will fall apart. Sendō admits by experience that Sawamura backs up his own word, as he abuses his timing errors while sparring. Sendō notices that Ippo already knows about his Dempsey Roll's timing being it's weak point and warns him that Sawamura is a counter puncher and the Dempsey Roll's natural enemy. Outside, Sendō thanks Ippo for watching his fight and expresses his willingness to fight Ippo again, however he is unable to lose enough weight from the rehab. Sendō then mentioned how a fight with Sawamura is possible for Ippo and that he believes that Sawamura has the potential to surpass Miyata. Sendō leaves for his victory party with Yanaoka and Ippo takes the train back to Tokyo.
Meanwhile in Russia, Alexander Volg Zangief visits his mother's grave, apologising if his return to the ring saddens her. Volg tells Ruslan Ramuda that he would be going to the United States of America to risk it all on his fists despite knowing his reputation after he was let go from the Otowa gym. But before going to America, Volg plans to retrieve something he left behind from a friend. Ramuda believes that his mother's death was a trigger for Volg's departure, as he knew he would leave Russia one day as there would be no way to keep his blood from boiling over for too long.
KING OF HAWK - WBC Junior Middleweight Title Match - Takamura Mamoru VS. Larry Bernard
The pre-fight press conference for Takamura's first WBC junior middleweight title defence match against the third ranker Larry Bernard commences. Bernard comments to the press that he plans to take Takamura straight-on and exchange punches, vowing to take the champion belt home with him in America. Takamura then makes an announcement that after the match, he would relinquish the belt and move to the middleweight class all the way to the heavyweight class in a quest to conquer six weight classes. To make everyone believe him, Takamura claims he will not take a single hit from Bernard.
On the day of the match at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, Takamura tells his worried gym mates that he has a secret plan against Bernard. With Takamura wanting to finish quickly to hurry to the next weight class, and Bernard wanting to humiliate Takamura for embarrassing him at the press conference, the match begins. At the start of the first round, Bernard immediately tries to hit Takamura by knocking his hand away. Bernard stops when Takamura begins to turn his head. Takamura performs the Look Away and then turns his whole body in the direction he is looking. Bernard is not fooled by Takamura's trick and lands a clean punch on Takamura face that causes him to lose consciousness. Takamura snaps back to consciousness and wonders why Bernard did not fall for what he fell for when Aoki did it. After Takamura dodges all of Bernard's punches, Takamura lands two right hits that downs Bernard and ends the match without a count, making Takamura the winner. Due to Takamura breaking his no-hit promise, the audience scolds Takamura. Takamura then runs away from the building after being scolded by Kamogawa, forgetting his WBC belt.
Ippo's Fifth JBC Featherweight Title Defence Opponent - The Bloodthirsty Mad Dog Sawamura Ryūhei
Kamogawa calls Ippo into his office and tells him that despite defending his title four times, he still has many challenge requests due to others taking him lightly and having holes like swiss cheese, making him a cheese champion. Kamogawa has Ippo pick one out of four challengers to face as his fifth title defence. When Ippo picks Sawamura, Yagi advises him to look at the videos before coming to a decision, however, Ippo reveals that he already met Sawamura. Despite him and Kamogawa knowing that Sawamura is the Dempsey Roll's natural weakness, Ippo asks him to let him fight him. Ippo takes the videos of Sawamura to his house and watches Sawamura exhaust Shimabukuro Iwao after four rounds. Ippo then goes to Takamura's house, where Aoki, Kimura, Itagaki, Isamu, and Hiroshi are invited. The group watches as Sawamura wins by decision against Shimabukuro, despite being able to finish him by knockout during the match. They note how, unlike Miyata's counters, Sawamura's counters hit before the opponent begins to move and is surrounded by darkness. Ippo then shows everyone a tape where Sawamura gets accidentally hit by an elbow. They become shocked when they see Sawamura forcefully jamming his elbow into his opponent's face while holding him. Fujii then entered and explained his record and that he toys with his opponents. Fujii also reveals that Sawamura hurts others on the street despite being a pro boxer and was banned for one year because of it. When Takamura is asked for his thoughts, he throws everyone out due to his room being too crowded. While walking from Takamura's home, Aoki and Kimura think of Sawamura as a combination of Miyata and Mashiba. Ippo refutes their claim, as he refuses to recognise Sawamura as a boxer.
At night in Nagoya, Japan, Sawamura brutally beats up citizens in an alley simply because he doesn't like the looks of them. He then rode his motorcycle to the Nagoya Oniyaritome Boxing Gym where his coach, Karil is frightened to see teeth marks on his fist, thinking Sawamura was in another street fight. Later, Sawamura and his former teacher, Kawabe, goes out to eat at the Hirosue. Sawamura informs him that he is going to fight for the JBC title. He expresses his thrill that he gets praised for beating people in the ring, while Kawabe suggests that he gets praised for his hard work. Sawamura then mentions how he feels the sensation in his fist is doubled when he lands a counter. Kawabe begins to regret introducing him to boxing, as he originally planned to make Sawamura have friends and have others recognise his hard work, but his talent made him even more isolated.
At the Kamogawa gym, Takamura asks Ippo what he will do about the Dempsey Roll's weakness to counters. Ippo plans on using the technique on Sawamura to beat him, and to make the Dempsey Roll not lose to modern boxing. Ippo announces to evolve the Dempsey Roll.
Theory to Evolve the Dempsey Roll
Ippo tells his gym mates that he does not know how he will evolve the Dempsey Roll yet, but wants to practice by having Kimura and Itagaki spar with him and try to use their counter against his Dempsey Roll. Kimura gets into the ring with Ippo and attempts to counter it, however, he backs away from fear of the technique, which Itagaki admits he would not be able to either. Takamura mentions to Ippo that he needs to do something soon, because it may take too long for Kimura and Itagaki to get used to the timing of the counter for them to have the confidence to throw it, suggesting to have someone on the same level as Miyata to practise with. Back at his house, Ippo wonders if he can have Takamura try to counter his Dempsey Roll before thinking that it would be suicide.
At the Nagoya Oniyaritome gym, Sawamura trains by having a sparring partner attack him from a blind spot as he looks away from the partner, though he has trouble finding one that matches Ippo's speed.
The next day, Kamogawa notices Ippo worried about evolving the Dempsey Roll, and has him think what to do about it while having him run while dragging a vehicle tire on a rope, informing Ippo that if he finds a way to evolve the technique, will require a strong lower body to pull it off. Overlooking Ippo doing roadwork, Itagaki begins to wonder if one does not need guts to throw a counter at the Dempsey Roll, and that there is something unique with the Dempsey Roll that causes anxiety when trying to face it. Itagaki then looks to solve the mystery behind the reason the technique instils fear. While doing research, Itagaki runs into Isamu and Hiroshi, bumping into them and making them drop their books containing their research about techniques. While the books were no help to Itagaki, when Hiroshi put his hand in Itagaki's blind spot, asking for his book back, Itagaki got scared. Realising he got scared of Hiroshi's hand coming from his blind spot, Itagaki solved the Dempsey Roll's mystery. Itagaki went and informed Aoki and Kimura about the discovery and explains how the fear comes from the opponent's perspective of Ippo going for blind spot to blind spot delivering punches. Itagaki continues, explaining how in order to overcome the fear, one has to take a half of a step away to see the full view of the Dempsey Roll. Since Itagaki has his Rookie King Tournament match in a month, it is decided that Kimura has to help Ippo by throwing the counter.
Volg Arrives to Japan
- "The Owari Dragon Arc" (尾張の竜編), name was taken from Best Bout book Makunouchi Ippo VS. Sawamura Ryūhei.
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