Kyōsuke Imai (今井 • 京介, lit. Imai Kyōsuke) is a semi-recurring character in Hajime no Ippo
He is a featherweight professional boxer and the current JBC featherweight champion affiliated with the Otowa Boxing Gym. He is proclaimed the eternal rival of boxing genius Itagaki Manabu, and is known for being a very talented hard puncher capable of holding his own against Makunouchi Ippo twice in spars, as well being a very huge fan of his and one of his former goals.
His surname is Imai. In Japan, surnames are listed before given names.
Imai's family owned a big company. He took up boxing because he didn't want to be the heir. Prior to his highly anticipated entry into the pro ring, Imai was a two time inter-high boxing champion, defeating his rival Itagaki Manabu twice, both times by knockout. Despite his idolisation of Makunouchi Ippo, Imai chose to join any gym but the Kamogawa Boxing Gym in hopes to one day be able to fight Ippo in the ring.
Imai and his coach visited the Kamogawa Boxing Gym to have a sparring match with Makunouchi Ippo. After introducing himself and telling Ippo how much he looks up to him, they got in the ring to spar. The spar lasted three rounds with Imai having no downs and was giving Ippo a hard time. As a result of the spar, Imai believed Ippo to be strong and a good goal.
When Itagaki Manabu arrived at the gym, he learned how Ippo was pushed in a spar by Imai. Imai attempted to greet Itagaki, but Itagaki turned him down. Disappointed that Itagaki turned him down, Imai claimed that he will aim at becoming pro and will take the shortest path to Ippo's title. Imai then left the gym without a word after Itagaki told him that he will stop him from doing that.
Imai returns to Kamogawa Boxing Gym to spar with Ippo in order to prepare for the All Japan Rookie King Tournament. When Itagaki see Imai, he wonders what he is doing there. Ippo mentions he is there to spar, where Itagaki wants to spar with him and he tells Imai that Ippo doesn't need to brother once he gets his gloves. Imai and Itagaki start to get into a argue, and Ippo offers come by Otowa Boxing Gym to spar since he shouldn't be so quick to fight in front of future Rookie King Tournament Competition.
Imai forgot he was in the same tournament as Itagaki, but doesn't think it will be a problem. Ippo agrees to spar with him in order to give Itagaki some hints since what he said was rude. Right as the spar is about to begin, Miyata Ichirō arrives to pick up Takamura for their training camp. Miyata's appearance causes Ippo to be distracted, allowing Imai to land the first punch. Ippo thinks he is still rusty, but Imai's also strong, much stronger than later time.
Ippo has a hard time with Imai in the spar, where he lost the clean exchange between them. Ippo is surprised that Imai's only had 4 professional fights, and feels Imai has more power than Shimabukuro Iwao. Imai lands a strong punch that causes Ippo to almost fall. The spar ends, and Ippo had a tough time. Imai's Coach is impressed with it, and think Ippo would have fallen if they used 8 ounce gloves, but Imai isn't certain.
After Makino Fumito's match that Itagaki attended, Imai runs into Itagaki Manabu, Itagaki Nanako, Makunouchi Ippo, and Makino. Makino criticizes Itagaki for bring a girl to his match. Makino continues to mock Itagaki about losing to him, and mentions he envies him for having a girlfriend to lift up his spirits. Nanako defends Itagaki, and mentions he is going to beat Makino instead. Imai joins the conversion, where he mentions that Nanako is actually Itagaki's sister. After seeing Imai, Makino is a little hostile toward him. Itagaki tells him to stop, and mentions to Imai not to get provoked by him. Ippo tries to play peacemaker between the three of them, and tells them to wait till they are inside the ring. Makino leaves, but he steps on Ippo's foot as he does. He mentions to Ippo that pretty soon, Ippo won't be able to ignore him either.
Ippo, Itagaki, Nanako, and Imai talk about Makino. Imai thinks he is a mad dog. He wonders if Itagaki is going to be able to beat him and make it to the finals. Itagaki tells Imai to be careful not to trip out there either. He also wonders how Imai knows who his sister is. Imai mentions when they fight in the past, Nanako was always cheering her heart out for Itagaki every time. Nanako adds that Itagaki still ended up losing. Imai wants to go with them Karaoke, even though he can't sing, but Itagaki doesn't invite him.
After seeing Itagaki defeat Makino, Imai tells Itagaki that his match was pretty showy. Itagaki tells him not to hurt himself in his. During the match, Iimura Mari mentions that Terai Makoto is fighting well, where it like watch Itagaki vs Makino all over again. She notes taht Terai got good legs, where Imai having a hard time catching him. Ippo agrees that Terai footwork is similar to Itagaki's.
Terai is looking down on Imai since Imai's swing is too wide and not able to touch him. He thought Imai would be better after hearing about his past, but he is disappointed instead. Imai continues to swing wildly, and manages to touch him blow open Terai's guard. Terai thinks it is his turn to attack, but Imai's not stopping. Terai manages to duck Imai's right hook, but he shows signs of fear on his face.
Imai finally manages to land a body blow on him, and Terai is shocked by the power of it. After taking it, he shows signs of falling. Imai continues to go after his body, and Terai gets KD. The ref stops the fight and Imai is declared the winner.
After Ippo defeated Karasawa Takuzou, Imai ran into Itagaki, who was waiting for Aoki. Imai mentions he is there because he has a goal of fighting Ippo. He mentions when he wins the All Rookie Championships, he will be ranked 10th. He will have the right to challenge Ippo. So he plans on taing the shortest route by challenging Ippo. Itagaki mentions that he will stop him, but Imai mentions that he should have saw what happened in today's match (Ippo vs Karasawa) since it will be a good reference for him against Itagaki. Somewhat embarrassed, Itagaki tells him that same thing to him, where he wil be the one crawling on the mat. Imai notes that Itagaki doesn't look very good since his cheek-bones are showing. He wonders if Itagaki failed weight control. (It is because of the squid that Takamura gifted him.) Imai asks Itagaki what he plans to do if he won, or what he see ahead of him. Itagaki doesn't answer.
Imai tells him that he wants to test his own power, and fight a strong champion. He tells Itagaki that is why he chose a different gym from Ippo. He tells Itagaki that he chose to be stuck under Ippo because he doesn't want to fight him. They are looking at tow different things, where that difference will come out in their match. He wants to make a bet with Itagaki, if Itagaki wins he will do anything he wants, but if Imai wins he wants Itagaki to introduce him to his sister.
After hearing that, Itagaki grabs Imai to fight him. He tells Imai that he is making him angry for bring such a thing into their match. Imai mentions he is serious, and Itagaki about ready to hit him when a mummified Aoki Masaru arrives tell them not to fight. After seeing Aoki in a poor condition, Itagaki runs to him to see whats wrong with him. While Imai laughs and thinks Itagaki's gym is interesting. As he leaves, he tells Itagaki to remember what he said.
A few days prior to the Itagaki vs Imai match, Imai is still preparing for it. His coach mentions that Maezono Makoto has already won the West Japan Championships. He going to be troublesome because he is a southpaw. After hearing that, Imai mentions that they aren't done with East Japan yet. His coach mentions that Imai already beat Itagaki 3 times in high school, where he shouldn't be nervous about it. Imai continues with is training, and thinks that he never once thought he could beat Itagaki easily. He think Itagaki must have increased his speed even more. He thinks his punches won't slow down Itagaki, they need to be sharper and stronger.
Itagaki and Imai both past the weigh in fine. Imai mentions to Itagaki that he thought Itagaki failed his weight control, but today Itagaki looks better. Itagaki tells Imai his sister doesn't want to go out with him. Imai forgot about the previous bet of late, since the only thing on his mind is defeated Itagaki. Itagaki feels the same.
Imai is already arrived in the ring, and is waiting for Itagaki's appearance. Itagaki is taking his time in the waiting room in order to prepare himself. Imai's coach is complaining to the ref about it, and the crowd is starting to complain. After waiting more, Itagaki runs out and jumps over the top rope into the ring with a flashy entrance.
Itagaki's still deciding on how he is planning to fight, and Imai is trying to concentrate and focus. As the match begins, Imai charges towards Itagaki, and Itagaki uses his legs to run away, while outboxing. Itagaki throws some lefts, and Imai continues to charge ahead. Imai plans to be patient to catch after him and catch him until he can hit him. The match turns into a speed vs power match, Itagaki using his speed to dodge while landing rapid fire with his left and Imai throwing strong punches while trying to hit Itagaki. Imai comes close a few times at landing a body blow, but Itagaki barely able to dodge them. Imai continues to close the distance little by little, and Itagaki feeling the pressure from him.
Itagaki remembers their past matches, where Itagaki lost the first time before he knew what was going on, the second time he tried using his feet, but was caught in the end. The third time, he tried to move faster, but he was still defeated. Itagaki knows he can't keep running from Imai, where he decided to infight him. The match turns into a pushing match, but Imai is slowing pushing him back because of their size difference, but Itagaki lands an uppercut close range.
Imai starts attacking close range, but Itagaki able to dodge his punches by a hair, and able to land a few counters in. Itagaki continues to infight, dodging and landing punches, where he is becoming unpredictable. The round ends right as Itagaki about to land a strong punch, winning the points for the round.
Shinoda yells at Itagaki for infighting, and wonders how long he plans to infight Imai. He mentions till the end of the match. Imai plans to get into a hitting match with Itagaki. Round 2 starts with Itagaki infighting and outboxing close range. He continues to dodge Imai's punches, while landing his own on him. They are fighting slow close, yet Imai isn't able to land a punch on him. After awhile, Imai is able to land a punch on him, but Itagaki starts to use his arm to block Imai's punches while attacking him.
Itagaki punches is forcing Imai to step back, but Imai tries punching ahead. Itagaki continues to dodge Imai's punches close range, and he is starting to get a boxing high from it. Imai lands a punch that causes Itagaki's forehead to start bleeding, but Itagaki counters attacks before the round ends with Itagaki winning the points again. Shinoda looks at the cut, while Itagaki's excite to continue to box. Shinoda tires to calm him down in order to get him to rest, but he is too excited.
The 3rd round starts, with Itagaki continues to infight and outbox close range again. Imai's starting to land a few punches, and Itagaki trying to show his determination while attacking. Imai finally able to land a body blow on him that stops him. He continues to land body blows, but Itagaki is able to counter attack him. Itagaki boxing sense is evolving the more he infights. Imai and Itagaki continue to fight, where Imai lands a few punches causing Itagaki's cut to start bleeding again. Itagaki throws the hedgehog close range that Imai can't block against. It pushes Imai toward the ropes. They trade punches till the bell rings, which Itagaki winning the points for the round.
Itagaki's excited, and Shinoda Tomoyuki tries to calm him down again in order to stop the blood. He warns Itagaki not to get careless since he is at the turning point. Shinoda mentioned the liver blows he took from Imai, and Itagaki makes a joke from taking them. The fourth round begins. Imai comes out bracing for a hitting match. Itagaki throws his hedgehog on him. Miyata Ichirō wonders if Itagaki's has stamina issues since he noticed Itagaki's stopped moving his feet even though he increased the number of punches thrown. Imai continues to block.
Imai waits for his moment to attack when he sees an opening. He lands strong punch on Itagaki's guard, but Itagaki staggers from it. When Imai's about to throw another one, Itagaki attacks back. Ippo notices Imai is planning to win the match with a KO, and not paying attention to the points. Itagaki continues to attack Imai's guard, but Imai throws punches when the chance shows itself, which starting to show signs that effecting Itagaki with his shaky legs.
Itagaki continues to attack, landing a few punches on him until Imai finally got Itagaki and land a clean hit toward Itagaki's head. As Itagaki's about to follow, Imai throws an uppercut that pushes Itagaki backwards. Right as Imai goes in for the cut, Itagaki charages ahead while blocking, and counters attack. Itagaki can't hide his damage on him, but he continues to push ahead and attack. Imai lands more body blows, but Itagaki is able to endure it and attack back till the round ends. The crowd thinks Itagaki won the round again, since it was in his favor. Even though he is winning in points, it seems like he is losing.
During the break, while Itagaki catching his breath, Shinoda tells Itagaki to drink some water and listen close since he is going to say the ultimate words to perk him right back up again. Itagaki wonders if there are such words, and wonders what they are. Shinoda is hesitant in saying it, but he tells Itagaki "With Guts, Go Gattsun, Gattsun!!" The corner is shocked at Shinoda's bad pun. As the round is about to begin, Itagaki tells him "I'll go hang in there Shinoda-san!" (Shinoide, Shinoda) After hearing that, Shinoda repeats his pun, where the crowd can hear him.
Imai starts attacking, while Itagaki tries to hold on. Imai pushes Itagaki to the ropes. When Imai attacks, Itagaki uses the ropes to dodge him. Itagaki almost fall over, but he grabs the rope to hold on, but Imai continues to attack him. Itagaki avoided the damage by twisting his neck. Imai throws a hook, but it stopped by the rope, blocking off Itagaki from running away while he throws a liver blow. Imai continues to attack, while Itagaki blocks. After a while, Imai punches are starting to get threw Itagaki's guard. Imai traps Itagaki into a corner, and continues to attack him.
While in his corner, Shinoda continues to yell at him to show them his guts. After getting hit, Itagaki decides to start throwing punches at Imai, and lands a few, while repeating Shinoda's pun. Itagaki knows blocking doesn't work, dodge, where his defense is gone, but he can still move his hands to attack. Imai and Itagaki getting into a hitting match. Kamogawa tells Shinoda that Itagaki will return, and to have some words to cheer him up, but Shionda's run out of idea's. They ask Yagi instead. Imai and Itagaki continue to slug it out, but Itagaki doesn't fall and continues to show his determination to the round ends.
When Itagaki makes it back to the corner, he falls down but Yagi Haruhiko manages to put the chair down in time for him. Yagi tells them about it as a pun, "This Isu Naisu!" (This chair/is nice.) However, Shinoda and Kamogawa tells him they have no time for such dumb comments. The ref checks to see how is Itagaki's bleeding, and if he should call for the doctor. Kamogawa tells him it is okay, when the ref notices that Itagaki looks unconcious and plans to stop the match. Ippo arrives and causes Itagaki to wake up. Itagaki stands up and ready to start the next round. The ref asks Itagaki if he is okay, and warns he will stop the match if it become too dangerous.
Imai is now motivated when he sees Ippo in the corner. When the round begins, they touch gloves. Itagaki attacks first and lands a punch. They continue to trade hits, and Imai lands a body blow but Itagaki holds on. They continues to trade hits until Imai lands a blow that causes Itagaki to fall. Itagaki manages to get up, and the fight resumes with one minute left. Itagaki tights his guard while Imai attacks. Itagaki continues to hold on, while Imai's swings are starting to go wide allowing Itagaki dodge.
Imai lands a punch that almost causes Itagaki to fall again, but Itagaki holds on and manages to counter attack with a hedgehog when Imai goes in for the kill that pushes Imai back. After Itagaki runs out of steam, Imai throws a punch to end it, but the bells rings instead. Itagaki falls foward, while Imai catches him. The match goes to decision.
The Announcer announces the judges score. Judge Uchida scores it 57 to 56, Judge Morita scores it 57 to 57, and Referee Shimakawa 57 to 56. Itagaki is declared the winner by one point difference. As Imai leaves, he notices Itagaki celebrating with his gym mates, and thinks the difference between them is because they put themselves in different environments, where he trained with real Pro's. As they are celebrating Itagaki passes out, and he is sent to the hospital. Kimura Tatsuya mentioned when he stamped down hard so he wouldn't fall, he injured his achilles tendon, and broken his left fist.
After Imai lost to Itagaki, Itagaki get sent to Kawai Hospital. Imai visits him to drop of video of the West Japan Rookie King Tournament Winner, Hoshi Hiroyuki. He over hears Ippo tell Itagaki that he thinks Itagaki and him are good friends. Itagaki disagrees with him, but Ippo tells him when the final bell ring, Imai was holding Itagaki up. Ippo think it looks like Imai was praising him, or they must have some sort of bond, and Ippo is envious of it. Itagaki thinks Ippo is joking, since he considers Imai his enemy. Imai finally enters and tells Ippo to take those words back, since Itagaki is his enemy.
Itagaki wonders why Imai there, and he complains that Imai looks healthy while he is hospitalized. Imai tells him he didn't come to visit him, only to drop off some videos that he doesn't need anymore. He tells Itagaki that Maezono was expect to win it, but someone knocked him around like he was a kid. He tells Itagaki he should watch them and he will leave them there, even if he doesn't want them.
Itagaki then remembers the bet they made before the match. He tells Imai to kneel down in front of him and apologize (or Dogeza.) Ippo asks him if he really promised that, and Imai is about to do it but Itagaki Nanako enters the room. She notices the mood seems weird, and wonders what is going on. Imai tells Itagaki that since he is healthy right now, and he is in the hospital, doesn't that mean he lost the battle but won the war betwen them? As he leave, he tells Itagaki the real conclusion will be the next time they meet in the ring, until then they will postpone the promise.
Imai visits Itagaki again while he is getting check out by Kumi. Itagaki doesn't want to leave the hospital since he is getting look after by her. Imai doesn't like that Itagaki is distracted thinking about nurses since the All-Japan Rookie King Tournament is near. Itagaki doesn't want to hear it, but Imai think the West Fighter is strong. If Itagaki loses to him, then it means there are two rookies stronger than him, which would be troublesome.
After hearing that the West guy is strong, Itagaki starts to become interested in him. Imai offers to help him, which is why he visits every day. Itagaki's now motivated, and wants to leave the hospital. As he is about to leave, Nanako arrives again. She yells at Imai for not stopping him from doing things like that. She wonders why Imai is there if he doesn't stop Itagaki from doing stupid stuff. While giving Imai a bad look, she tells him to stop her brother. Imai forces Itagaki back to the bed. Imai tell Itagaki that if he not there he can't see Nanako any more. They start to struggle and Kumi lectures Itagaki for not resting. Itagaki and Imai start acting nice, while Nanako is angry at them.
A few days later, Kumi see Itagaki leave the hospital, and she reminds him to rest now that he is released. Ippo picks up Itagaki in a truck, while Imai offers to walk Nanako home, which Kumi comments that Nanako should do it since they would make a good couple. That makes a Nanako a little angry, and tells Imai she though he wasn't suppose to talk to her since he lost the match. Imai walks away determined to beat Itagaki in a rematch.
In order for Itagaki to fight Hoshi Hiroyuki, he need to fight another 6 Round match to get his Class A license. Imai watches Itagaki fight against "unknown" opponent. While watching the fight, Imai notices Itagaki fighting poorly, and wonder what is causing him to slip up so much. Itagaki was able to win the match in the end.
After Itagaki lost to Randy Boy Junior in a spar at Otowa Boxing Gym, Itagaki discussing his thoughts on him with Ippo, Fujii Minoru, and Iimura Mari. He feels Randy Boy Junior is the worst possible match up for Miyata Ichirō, but Imai arriving (covered with bruises) gives his opinion and thinks Miyata can win it. Fuji asks him why he thinks so, when Imai shows him his bruises where he mentions he just got done experiencing Miyata's strength first hand. Itagaki laughs at him for sparring with Miyata and getting his ass kicked. Imai counters (while grabbing him) that Itagaki should laugh since he doesn't look any better. Ippo warns Imai that Itagaki was knocked down, and not to shake his head too much.
After hearing that, he thinks Itagaki is pathetic since he didn't fall down against Miyata. Itagaki apologizes, and mentions he only landed 3 or 4 hits on him. Imai is surprised that Itagaki hit him, since he never been able to touch Miyata during it. Itagaki starts laughing, and Imai adds it was pretty pathetic since the spar was 2 on 1. He mentions Miyata wanted to fight a right handed boxer, and a southpaw at the same time.
Ippo is surprised that it is at the same time, and not switching out. Imai mention he knows that he is not at the same level as Miyata, but he still felt like Miyata was mocking them. Imai seriously wanted to break Miyata's conceited face, but instead Miyata tells him it was a good practice and would like his help again 3 times a week. Imai still angry at Miyata's smug look.
As they are about to leave, Imai offers to take responsibility for getting Itagaki home in one piece. Itagaki doesn't know what he is talking about, but Imai mention since he was knocked down, he should have moving around on his own. Itagaki thinks he is okay, but Imai still tries to walk him home. Itagaki realizes Imai just wants to see his sister. They continue to argue about it, when Ippo tells Imai to take care of Itagaki.
Disappointed, Itagaki tells him that he is not letting him see Nanako. Imai think Itagaki is being stingy, when Itagaki mention he not going hook up a guy so pathetic that he couldn't touch Miyata. Imai argues with him. They both thought they gotten stronger and improved, but Imai mentions that there is always someone better. Its like there's no upper limit in this world, which makes it all more worth-while. Itagaki agrees, and mentions that they will show them one day.
Along the way home, Imai continues to talk to Itagaki about his spar with Miyata. He feels Miyata was focusing on him more than the other sparring partner. He can't think of any reason why Miyata would have it in for him. Itagaki mentions Imai's hair, and Imai tells him it is the Makunouchi look. He wants to be like Ippo as much as possible.
Itagaki asks Imai who he thinks is stronger, Miyata or Randy Boy Junior? Imai thinks Miyata since he was able to beat him with kid gloves on, and think he will do better than Itagaki did against Randy. Itagaki disagrees with him. They continue to discuss outboxing and infighting. Itagaki wonders how long Imai is going to follow him, and Imai plans on going all the way to Itagaki house.
They meet Itagaki Nanako when they arrive. Imai greets her, while see tells Itagaki he is keeping strange company. Imai mentions Itagaki was knocked out in a spar when he visited his gym, where he was worried and wanted to make sure Itagaki got home safe. Nanako thanks him, and sends him off. Imai wants to stay longer, and starts leaving when Itagaki's parents stop him. They invite him in for dinner, and Imai love join them.
At the dinner table, Imai notices the food is bare minimum nutritional intake need to survive and their house interesting too. Itagaki's parents ask about his house, and Imai mentions he hates it since he used to get lost inside of it all the time. When ever his friend would visit, they would end up needing help finding someone. Itagaki thinks he is bragging, but Imai thinks it is nice to have a real home, where you can find your family and talk to them. Imai continues to complain about how big his home is, where it is lonely for him.
Imai is enjoying the food and the cozy environment. Itagaki's Father asks Imai about being the only son of the owner of a large company. Imai agrees, and that he may end up taking control of it at some point in time, but he doesn't plan to be like his parents, who are too busy and never home. He plans to always make time to enjoy being with his family, even in-laws since he has plenty room to share. Imai apologize for talking about having a wife, when he still hasn't proven himself yet. Itagaki's parent disagree, and start to encourage him with Nanako.
Over the course of the dinner, Itagaki's family starts telling puns. Imai decides to join them with "I eat sardines and I'm aiming to become Champion someday." (Mezashi Mezashite) It catches Itagaki and Nanako by surprise. Imai leaves while Itagaki walks with him a bit. Itagaki mentions he plans to enter the Class A Tournament, where he will be ranked first if he wins it. Imai doesn't plan to enter it.
He mentions to Itagaki that he doesn't envy him, where he thinks it is a pity that Itagaki will never be able to test himself against the strongest there is in Ippo. He wonder if Itagaki will really think taking the belt will mean as much to him if he does it without fighting Ippo.
Imai continues spars with Miyata Ichirō prepare for his match with Randy Boy Junior. The spar ends, Imai mentions that he can still go on, but Miyata Senior tells him we can't since Miyata doesn't have the stamina to continue. He notes that they are lucky Imai is so tough, since he was the only one to make it through the entire training, the other sparring partners all got injured or had other reason to leave partway.
Imai mentions it is an honor, and wonders how long they are planning to keep this up since Miyata looks like he is hurt from all the spars after being this beat up, he in no condition to fight. Miyata's dad mentions that they plan on having him recover from his exhaustion and damage as the match draws near, but not if he can't learn from this training then he will not be able to win since he is still missing something. Imai surprised that he thinks Miyata can win. Miyata Senior notes that Miyata might have the speed advantage, but that won't help him much.
Later on, Imai over hears Miyata senior, Coach Kawahara, and Kida talking that Miyata will need a third type of punch in order to go on the offensive front. A punch from a low angle, or an uppercut.
After Ippo relinquishes his title, Imai, then ranked number 2 in Japan, meets Itagaki in a match for the title. Imai executes a flawless plan in which he traps Itagaki in the corner at the sound of the bell, then lands one punishing body blow via an exchange which damages Itagaki extensively. He proceeded to knock Itagaki out with an uppercut, claiming the Japanese title and his first professional win over Itagaki.
After defending the JBC Featherweight title for a 2nd time, Imai has knocked the opponent down, and the ref stopped the fight. Imai wins with a First Round KO. The crowd comments that Imai's entrances take longer than the actual matches, and they wonder if there is anyone in Japan that can beat him. Itagaki thinks he can, even though he lost to Imai before.
At the end of the match, Imai gets asked by the female reporter if he has any plans for the future. Imai mentions he has his eyes on a World Ranking, and he wants to take on two Japanese boxers in particular. The crowd mentions that it could be Sendo Takeshi and Miyata Ichirō. The reporter asked Imai if he wants to fight those two. Imai answers, "No, the person I wanted to fight was...Makunouchi Ippo."
Imai attends Miyata Ichirō match, where he meets Ippo. Ippo realises something is off about Miyata, Imai then states to Ippo, Miyata doesn't deserve to be a pro. Imai points out that the stadium's atmosphere is dead even though it is a title match. After Imai claims that a pro's job is to deliver what the fans came to see, Ippo suggests that Miyata has a reason he can't do it now. Imai states that Takamura never made an excuse, Miyata chose to be in the featherweight class.
Round 10 begins, Ippo claims Miyata never complained, he suffers in silence. As Miyata throws a left jab at his opponent, Imai states his left jab looked like a "sigh", something that didn't happen when Imai sparred with him. Miyata is pushed to the ropes and is bombarded with body blows. Imai states Miyata shouldn't be weak right now as he has dealt with weight control for awhile, he just lacks his drive. Ippo believes Miyata's drive is to carry on his father's legacy and become the world champion, but Imai claims that his drive is gone because Ippo is no longer in the ring.
|17||WIN||16-1-0||1999- 03||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||1(10)||KO||JBC Title Match 2nd Defense|
|16||WIN||15-1-0||1998||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||1(10)||KO||JBC Title Match 1st Defense|
|15||WIN||14-1-0||1998-03-21||Itagaki Manabu||Tokyo, Japan||1(10), 2:07||TKO||JBC Featherweight Title Match|
|7||LOSS||6-1-0||1995-11||Itagaki Manabu||Tokyo, Japan||6(6)||Decision||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Finals|
|6||WIN||6-0-0||1995-10||Terai Makoto||Tokyo, Japan||1(4)||KO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Semi-Finals|
|Inter-High Record: 35 Total Fights - 35 Wins, 0 Losses, 33 Referee Stops|
|Preceded by||Title||Succeeded by|
|Makunouchi Ippo||JBC Featherweight Champion|
March 21, 1998 - Present
As a fellow featherweight in-fighter, Imai's body is built strikingly like Ippo's albeit being taller than the latter. He has a dark skin tone, large dark gray eyes, and thick eyebrows. His hair is grown short, cut in between the styles of spiky and curly with five strands of hair hanging from his hairline to his forehead just long enough to brush against his eyebrows.
An incredibly serious and respectful member of the Otowa Boxing Gym, Imai is shown to show great admiration towards fellow featherweight in-fighter Makunouchi Ippo. It is shown that he wishes to befriend Itagaki Manabu sincerely on one occasion, even going as far as calling him by his given name, but quickly recoils and turns harshly confident when the latter refuses his offer of friendship.
He has an unrequited love for Itagaki's younger sister Itagaki Nanako and comes from a rich family. It is mentioned in the anime and manga that Imai's relatives strongly disapprove of his choice to become a boxer.
Despite his youth, Imai has proven to be a very capable fighter, able to defeat Itagaki twice before they turned pro and hold his own against Makunouchi, then the Japanese Champion. He has been compared to Ippo in terms of strength and style as a fellow in-fighter. He fights with an orthodox style, although he tends to make wide swings to scare off his opponents. His main weapons in the ring are his strength and stamina, which make him a powerful hard-punching boxer. According to Ippo, Imai's punching power is greater than Shimabukuro Iwao's, a boxer whose punches were comparable to his own.
Imai doesn't possess any footwork, which makes him easy to out-box. He does, however, compensate for this in his latest battle with Itagaki in which Imai cornered Itagaki.
"Your puny punches won't stop me. [They're] weak weak weak weak WEAK!" -Round 1026 "This isn't just a matter of trying hard. Just look at the stadium right now. This is a professional boxing match, and a title match on top of that. No one's cheering. No one's excited. The whole atmosphere is dead. Does a pro disappoint his paying fans? A pro's only job is to deliver what the fans come to see. At least that's what I think." -Round 1231. Imai to Ippo about Miyata's performance after Ippo's retirement.
- Imai mentions he admires Hamada Tsuyoshi when he first meets Ippo. Imai is probably modeled after him since they have a similar appearance and fighting style.
- Although he and Itagaki Manabu purport to dislike each other, they still refer to each other by their first names, "Manabu" and "Kyousuke".
- Imai is the only boxer that hasn't been knocked down in the entire series even during his spar with Miyata Ichirou.
- Imai is a fan of Ippo, and he wishes to fight him like other fans (in Yamada Naomichi and Kojima Hisato.)