Ippo Makunouchi (幕之内一歩, Makunouchi Ippo) is the eponymous protagonist of Hajime no Ippo. He is a trainer, retired featherweight professional boxer from the Kamogawa gym, and a former reigning featherweight JBC champion.
He originally started boxing to try and answer one simple question: "What does it mean to be strong?". Since then, he has formed a rivalry with Ichirō Miyata, Takeshi Sendō, Ryō Mashiba, a brotherly bond with Mamoru Takamura, Masaru Aoki, Tatsuya Kimura, and a deep trust for his coach, Genji Kamogawa, whom he aims to become a world champion for to honour the coach's teachings. After retiring from boxing, he has become a trainer, being a second for his gym mates while training Taihei Aoki and Kintarō Kaneda.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 2.1 Part I
- 2.1.1 Early Days Arc
- 2.1.2 Debut Arc
- 2.1.3 Rookie King Tournament: First Rounder Arc
- 2.1.4 Rookie King Tournament: Finals Arc
- 2.1.5 All Japan Rookie King Tournament: Rocky of Naniwa Arc
- 2.1.6 Two Rookie Kings Arc
- 2.1.7 Class A Tournament: Speed Star Arc
- 2.1.8 Class A Tournament: White Fang Arc
- 2.1.9 Challenge for the Throne Arc
- 2.1.10 Road Back Arc
- 2.1.11 Aoki and Kimura's Delinquent Youth Days Arc
- 2.1.12 Mountain Training Arc
- 2.1.13 Lallapallooza Arc
- 2.1.14 Execution Arc
- 2.1.15 First Step Arc
- 2.1.16 Bloody Cross Arc
- 2.1.17 Revenge Arc
- 2.1.18 Proof of Power Arc
- 2.1.19 Battle of Hawk Arc
- 2.1.20 Post-War Arc
- 2.2 Part II
- 2.2.1 Submarine Wars Arc
- 2.2.2 Comic Show Arc
- 2.2.3 Dragon Slayer Arc
- 2.2.4 A Passing Point Arc
- 2.2.5 Spirit of a Weed Arc
- 2.2.6 Under Siege Arc
- 2.2.7 Phantom Card Arc
- 2.2.8 Father's Back Arc
- 2.2.9 Chaos Arc
- 2.2.10 Seiken Arc
- 2.2.11 Scratch Arc
- 2.2.12 Operation World Domination Arc
- 2.2.13 Winner Takes All Arc
- 2.2.14 Red Lightning Arc
- 2.2.15 Second Coming of Death Arc
- 2.2.16 In the Jungle Arc
- 2.2.17 Chronos Arc
- 2.2.18 Blind Step Arc
- 2.2.19 Speed Zone Arc
- 2.2.20 Proud Wolf Arc
- 2.2.21 Go to the World Arc
- 2.2.22 Battle of the Beasts Arc
- 2.2.23 Goals to Reach Arc
- 2.2.24 Seeking Heights Arc
- 2.2.25 10 Months in the Making Arc
- 2.3 Part III
- 2.1 Part I
- 3 Match History
- 4 Relationships
- 5 Appearance
- 6 Personality
- 7 Boxing Abilities
- 8 In Other Media
- 9 Quotes
- 10 Trivia
- 11 References
Ippo was raised by his mother, Hiroko Makunouchi for the majority of his childhood because Ippo's father, Kazuo Makunouchi died early in his childhood when his boat crashed in a storm. During the time when his father was missing out in the sea, Ippo went everyday to the shore to wait for his return. He believed his father's words that upon his return he will never leave Ippo and Hiroko again.
Although his father never returned, Ippo was able to satisfy himself that his father fulfilled his promise by finding the cap his father wore. After his father died, Ippo grew up assisting his mother with the family fishing boat business. During his school days, when ever something happened at school, he would come home, hiding his feelings by saying that he was okay.
After being bullied by Masahiko Umezawa, Takemura and Matsuda, Ippo was saved by novice boxer, Mamoru Takamura, who drives the trio away. An unconscious Ippo is then taken to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym, where he is nursed back to health by Takamura. Before letting Ippo go, Takamura gave him the opportunity to punch a heavyweight bag with a drawing of Umezawa's face on it. After following Takamura's instructions, Ippo successfully performed a straight on the sandbag. Ippo's power was such, that the skin on his hand is peeled after hitting the sandbag. While bandaging Ippo's hand, Takamura noticed his well-built body and encourages him to defend himself from the gang. Before leaving, Takamura gave him a video compilation of Mike Tyson's knockouts.
Inspired by the videos, Ippo decided to become a professional boxer and requested Takamura's help in doing so. Thinking it was impossible for someone like Ippo to become a professional, Takamura told him that he would only agree to train him if he caught ten leaves falling from a tree midair with his jabs within a week. With much struggle, Ippo successfully caught ten leaves on the promised day with one hand, surprising Takamura and earning his acceptance.
Believing Ippo to not be boxing material, Genji Kamogawa had him spar against prodigy out-boxer Ichirō Miyata, in order to see whether he could be accepted or not. Terrified at the idea of an actual fight, Ippo followed the advice of Takamura, who served as his second in the match. Utilising everything he had learned from Takamura, Ippo managed to get to the third round, surprising all witnesses. However, he fell into a trap and was caught by Miyata's counter. Despite losing the spar by knockout, Ippo's great determination earned him Kamogawa's respect and acceptance.
Realising Ippo's potential, Kamogawa decided to have him fight Miyata again, to see how much they can improve in three months. In order to face the counter that defeated him, Ippo learned how to perform an uppercut, and worked on a strategy to lure Miyata in. However, after a conversation with Miyata about what motivated him to fight, Ippo decided that he does not want to run away from the counter. After convincing Kamogawa, he went through intensive training in order to face the counter head-on.
Ippo faced Miyata, who, unlike before, became desperate after realising just how much Ippo had evolved in three months. With both fighters scoring multiple downs, and Ippo's strategy against the counter working as planned, they got to the fourth round. In this final round, Ippo threw his newly acquired uppercut in an attempt to end the fight, but seemingly missed. It was this uppercut that caused Miyata to go down and unable to get up, making Ippo the winner. Minoru Fujii revealed, that Ippo's uppercut, indeed landed by barely a centimetre, making Miyata lose control of his legs, despite still being conscious.
The result of the second spar, caused Miyata to leave the gym in order to be able to face Ippo as a professional in the future. Before parting ways, they each promised to make it to the East Japan Rookie King Tournament and settle the score.
With Miyata's departure, Ippo lost a goal to fight for and no longer showed his characteristic enthusiasm. In an attempt to solve this problem, Kamogawa ordered him to follow Takamura's training routine, with hopes of him realising just how difficult a boxer's life really is. Kamogawa's attempts proved to be successful, as Ippo understood by watching Takamura going through his training schedule with such energy despite suffering the effects of his weight management.
After regaining his motivation, Ippo applied for a professional boxing licence. Despite easily passing the written test, Ippo was extremely nervous before the test fight. However, his opponent's level of skill, proved to be much inferior to Miyata's, which made it easy for Ippo to defeat him. Also applying for a licence there, another newcomer, Ryō Mashiba, threatened Ippo by advising him to switch weight classes, as they would face each other in the tournament otherwise. Ippo vowed that he will not, as he has a promise to fulfil with Miyata. After Umezawa takes Ippo's boxing license, Ippo defended himself and took it back, earning the bullies respect.
After Ippo received his boxer's license, Kamogawa announced that his opponent for his pro debut would be Yūsuke Oda. When the match began, Ippo had the advantage until in round two, when Oda grazed Ippo near the eye and caused a cut to appear. This caused the doctor to almost stop the match. The third round, Oda went straight for the cut, trying to make it bleed again, Ippo switched to southpaw and eventually knocked out Oda with a series of jabs, thus winning the fight. As a celebration, Kamogawa left money, which Ippo and the others used to celebrate at the Sugar Ray.
Ippo's second match is scheduled and his opponent's name is Yoshio Fujiwara. When the match begins, in round one, Fujiwara intentionally headbutted Ippo. After the next headbutt, Ippo noticed that Fujiwara was doing it on purpose. Fujiwara then began to headbutt Ippo again, but the latter knew it was coming and threw an uppercut that knocks out Fujiwara, making Ippo the winner. After school, Umezawa introduces Ippo to a group of delinquents, Umezawa then started calling Ippo his friend.
Ippo celebrated his first year at the gym at the Chūka Soba. At the Kamogawa Boxing Gym, Yagi and Kamogawa announced the line up for the Rookie King Tournament. Ippo's first opponent would be Jason Ozuma. After hearing about Ozuma's devastating right hook, Ippo trained to dodge hooks by having Takamura throw hooks for him to dodge and Ippo using hanging bars to act as a punch to dodge. At the weigh-in, they met for the first time, to Ippo's surprise, Ozuma was a kind man.
The match against Ozuma began, and in the first round, both Ippo and Ozuma were on the same pace, dodging each others punches, however Ippo was hit by one of Ozuma's hooks and went down. In the second round, Ippo went down due to a hook. After exchanging punches, Ozuma threw a large hook, Ippo dodged and threw a body blow, knocking Ozuma down. After getting back up, Ozuma threw multiple punches to Ippo, winning the exchange. Ippo, running out of options near the rope, saw an opening as Ozuma threw a hook, Ippo dodged and threw an uppercut and a combo that knocked out Ozuma, winning the match.
After school, Ippo watched Miyata's match against Teruhiko Takada. There, he also saw a girl who was looking for a seat and dropped her ticket in front of him. After Miyata's win, Ippo was surprised with how much Miyata has gotten better since their spar. Later, Ippo went to Yamanaka Bakery and saw the same girl who he saw during Miyata's match, working at the bakery. At Kamogawa Boxing Gym, Fujii arrived with a tape of Ippo's next opponent, Kenta Kobashi. As Ippo watched the tape, he noticed Kobashi clinches and had weak jabs. He then watched a tape of Ryūichi Hayami, who used his Shotgun technique to batter his opponent with punches. Later, Ippo got an invitation to go to a training camp from Takamura, after accepting, he arrived at the training camp. There, he did multiple training exercises, running in the sand, shadowboxing, sparring, dodging tennis balls. After the training camp, at the Kamogawa Boxing Gym, it was revealed that Ippo's match against Kobashi was before Takamura's match. As Ippo left the gym, he noticed someone staring through the window. The person ran and dropped his journal, Ippo picked it up and caught up to him, immediately he found out it is Kobashi. When he found out Kobashi was observing, he started watching videos of Kobashi's matches.
When the match against Kobashi began, in the first three rounds, Ippo had trouble with Kobashi's left arm sticking out. Ippo was unable to hit him and was getting exhausted as Kobashi kept clinching. In the fourth and last round, Kobashi began to throw more punches than usual, hoping for a KO win after hitting with s clean one-two, Ippo saw an opening and threw a clean hit to the face that downed Kobashi. As Kobashi was unable to stand, Ippo won the match. Ippo then watched Takamura's match against Yoshiaki Yajima. When Takamura went down, Ippo and the others cheers helped Takamura stand back up. The match then ended with Takamura winning.
At school, Ippo attended a teacher's conference about his future. Ippo declined his teacher's request of going to college, wanting to stick with boxing. Later, Ippo saw Kobashi, who informed Ippo that he couldn't find any way of winning against Hayami or his Shotgun. At the Kamogawa gym, Kamogawa theorised that Hayami's Shotgun must tire himself out, suggesting that would be the moment Ippo should strike. Ippo began defensive training in order to dodge Hayami's Shotgun. Miyata arrived at the gym, reminding Ippo that he would wait for him at the finals. Ippo noticed how Hayami always does an uppercut at the end of Shotgun, so he began training with Aoki in order to counter the uppercut.
The match against Hayami began, and in the first round, Ippo started to dodge Hayami's punches perfectly, after getting hit by a barrage of punches, Ippo got ready to counter the expected left uppercut, but Hayami did not throw it, much to everyone's surprise. Hayami threw a barrage of punches at close range, Ippo went down, thinking that there was no hope. After getting back up, and gaining his fighting spirit back, Ippo began to hit Hayami better than he did before. Ippo saw a chance for the uppercut counter punch, however, they both hit each other, with Hayami's legs damaged. Ippo began gaining his speed and overpowered Hayami with punches, eventually Hayami went down on the first round, with Ippo declared as the winner.
After watching the match between Miyata and Mashiba, Ippo received a message from Miyata, who lost the match, saying to forgive him. Ippo, frustrated, punched a sand bag at the gym until he was stopped by Takamura who discovered his bloodied fist. After looking at the wounds on Ippo's fist, Kamogawa suggested he must not use his fist for two weeks. Ippo then began training focused on his speed.
Ippo went to the Yamanaka Bakery and saw Kumi, There, Ippo found out that Ryō is Kumi's brother. Then, at the gym, Fujii explained the Mashiba family's background to Ippo and everyone else. Kamogawa claimed to have found Mashiba's weakness, which was his left guard being down when he uses the Hitman Style. However, Ippo had to go head-on. After Kamogawa noticed Ippo's fist was healed, he let Aoki and Kimura spar with Ippo.
When the match against Mashiba began, Ippo had trouble with the Flicker Jab's range at first, but adapted. In round two, Ippo was on the offensive, however, he hit Mashiba's elbow with his Elbow Block three times. Due to Ippo's punching power, Mashiba's left arm fell, due to his elbow being bruised. Before round three began, Kamogawa noticed Ippo's right hand is bleeding through the glove, Kamogawa stated to only use his right hand as the finishing blow. In the third round, after receiving multiple punches, Mashiba forced his left arm into his Hitman Style. Ippo, thinking it's a bluff, got hit multiple times and went down. After noticing Mashiba's legs were shaking, Ippo got up. Ippo began throwing punches, Mashiba clinched, Ippo then began hitting Mashiba while clinched. Once he broke out, Ippo then threw combos to Mashiba until he went down. As Mashiba was unable to get up and Ippo was the winner. Ippo then received the most talented rookie award.
At school two weeks after the match, Umezawa reminded Ippo that the next tournament was the All Japan Rookie King Tournament. However, Ippo revealed 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 did not want to hurt it again right after it healed. Ippo then wondered how far he will go in boxing, needing to find a new goal. Ippo went to the Kamogawa gym, there, he saw Takeshi Sendō, the West Japan Rookie King, who told him not to withdraw. However, Ippo declined the request and began to go roadwork. During the roadwork, Ippo learned Sendō's reason for boxing: that he loves sticking to strong people and win in order to confidently say he is strong. After witnessing Sendō spar with Takamura, seeing the Smash in action, Ippo went with Sendō to the airport, where he would be departing for Osaka. Before Sendō got on the plane, he told Ippo that he would be waiting at Osaka, and accidentally left his souvenirs on the ground in the process.
Hearing Sendō's words resulted in Ippo wanting to fight him. Ippo then went to the doctor, Tomoko Yamaguchi, who confirmed that he was able to fight, but had to do certain training for his shoulders, along with putting his hurt right fist in ice. Ippo would then later send Sendō's souvenirs back to him, with a note claiming that he may be able to fight.
Two days before the match, the Kamogawa group arrived at the Ishino Boxing Gym in Osaka. Kamogawa had Ippo partake in a spar with the lightweight eight-rounder, Komori. The spar ended abruptly when Ippo found out he could not throw his right, due to him subconsciously stopping it to avoid damaging his fist. Kamogawa then wanted s to know if Ippo could really hit with his right, however, the next day Ippo was unable to hit Kamogawa's mitt correctly. As Kamogawa began to quit and pack for Tokyo, Takamura offered Ippo advice when he sprained his right wrist before a match. As Ippo wondered what would happen if he and Sendō threw their best punch after hearing Takamura's story, Kamogawa instructed Ippo to cool his fist so that he can throw the one punch he wanted.
The next day, Ippo arrived to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium for his match. In the waiting room, due to Ippo being unable to clinch his fist hard enough to punch, Yamaguchi, who arrived to Osaka, gave Ippo a shot containing pain killers to smother the pain. In the ring, Kamogawa asked Ippo about the shot, which Ippo answered that he had no idea as he could not feel his fist.
When the match began, Ippo's guard was immediately knocked back by two of Sendō's jabs. Ippo backed away to the ropes from the pressure Sendō emitted. Knowing that being defensive would not cut it, tried to strike with a left, but was hit back immediately, causing Ippo to go defensive again. Ippo got closer to Sendō and stopped at close range as he decided that he had to use his right to defeat Sendō. Ippo tried to aim his right by throwing a left jab, however he got hit by a right. Ippo was then instructed to stop his movements with a body blow only for Ippo to be hit by one. After getting hit by another body blow, Ippo noticed Sendō stopped his movements, he then landed a right, discovering that he felt no pain after throwing his right. Ippo, now knowing his right fist was safe to hit with, goes on the offence, making Sendō defensive. After hitting Sendō with an uppercut, the first round ended. With Ippo surprised that Sendō's punches were different from the videos, Kamogawa informed him that Sendō must be thinking the same, as his right is fine.
When the second round began, Ippo's guard was hit with a left Smash from the start. Sendō then got into a crouching position and hit Ippo with an uppercut from below. After dodging another Smash, Ippo got 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 stepped back and motioned for a Smash. Ippo attempted to counter the Smash's uppercut with a hook, but failed when it turned out to be a feint. Ippo then shoulder blocked a right straight. Sendō immediately used the Low Smash that barely hit Ippo, who then had to hold onto the ropes to stay up. Before Sendō was able to deliver the seemingly final hit, the referee got between them, ending the second round with Ippo being saved by the gong. When asked to sit down by his second, Ippo informed them that if he sat down, he would not be able to stand back up. He also told them that he had something left to do, so he could not afford to sit down.
Right as third round began, Ippo dropped 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 attacked as Ippo dodged and tried to measure the distance. Ippo then hit Sendō with a one centimetre punch, which Sendō initially thought was the Smash due to the punch being similar to his own Smash. The two fighters then exchanged punches at the same time that led to them both being off balance. They then launched 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. When Sendō got up, Sendō's damage became clear as he wobbled from a jab. Leaning on the rope, Sendō switched places with Ippo by grabbing him and pushing him into the rope and delivered a strong body blow. After both fighters exchange multiple punches with each other, Ippo landed a direct right at Sendō's temple. Ippo became shocked when Sendō did not react at all and began to strike Ippo directly multiple times. As the gong to end the third round sounded, Sendō continues to beat Ippo's unguarded head and body, as both Sendō and the referee were unable to hear the gong due to the crowd's cheering. After ten seconds of the gong ringing, the referee noticed and ended the round.
After Kamogawa forced Ippo to sit down, Ippo wondered why his punches were not working and how Sendō was still standing after the right to the temple. Despite knowing that he took the most punches, Ippo claimed he still had not lost, wanting to continue. Ippo became shocked as the referee ended the match after looking at Sendō, who was revealed to be unconscious due to Ippo's punch to the temple and was now unable to move. Ippo's hand was then raised as the victor of the All Japan Rookie Tournament, becoming the Rookie King. Ippo walked away from the ring after feeling like the win was a dream and imagining Sendō still sitting down, waiting to fight Ippo. Ippo, after hearing that Sendō claimed "today I've lost", began to feel that he really did win.
Later that night, a celebration party was held. The party ended short after a drunk Kamogawa countered Takamura's incoming punch, causing the latter to knock out his coach. The group then left to go to an adult location, much to Ippo's dismay.
After Ippo graduated at his school, he met with Umezawa, who wanted Ippo to take pictures with his fans. After taking pictures with his fans, Ippo gave his farewells to Takemura and Matsuda, and began walking with Umezawa. Before Ippo and Umezawa spilt paths, Umezawa made an attempt to apologise for everything he did in the past to Ippo, however Ippo believed he just wanted to know when the next match was, and told him that he would call him when he knew. As Ippo walked home, he encountered Miyata, who had also just graduated. Miyata revealed that he would be moving away from Japan to go to South Korea and Thailand in order to face their strong boxers and would not come back until he closes the gap between himself and Ippo.
When Ippo returned to the Kamogawa gym, a big group of newcomers were in the gym due to the gym having Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura having a match in the same day. After a roadwork training course set by Takamura, only one newcomer completed and joined the gym: Naomichi Yamada, who turned out to be a fan of Ippo. Ippo was soon chosen to teach Yamada the basics.
Ippo arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch his three gym member's matches. Before going to see the matches, Ippo was met with the JBC featherweight champion, Eiji Date, who requested for Ippo to go to his gym after Ippo's right fist heals, to "play". After watching the matches, Ippo thought that, while Aoki and Kimura have four people between their change at a champion title, he has nine people between. He was then told by Kamogawa to be more greedy, as he "only" has nine between, with a chance of fighting the champion being possible in the same year.
One month later, when Ippo visited Yamaguchi to have a checkup on his right fist, he discovered that his right fist was 100% healed. Ippo then tested his right fist out on a sandbag at the gym, successfully hitting it while thinking back at Date's words to go to his gym to "play" when his right fist heals. Ippo was then informed of a spar request from Date at the Nakadai Boxing Gym in three days. Upon arrival at the Nakadai gym, Ippo was greeted by Nakadai and the spar soon began.
When the three round spar began, Ippo was pushed back by the champion's overwhelming pressure. After getting hit in the face, Ippo began blocking and dodging Date's punches while punching occasionally when he saw a chance, however it hit Date's guard. Ippo eventually landed a clean right to Date's face, and was about to throw a followup punch before the gong rang, ending the first round. Before walking back to his corner, Ippo overheard Date mentioning that he would have to use his "Magic Punch". Ippo wondered if Date meant the "Corkscrew Blow", as Ippo saw him use it while shadowboxing before the spar began. When the second round began, Ippo started weaving in a motion that prevented Date from using the Corkscrew Blow. Ippo's movements to prevent Date from using the Corkscrew Blow costed him to go into the corner unknowingly. Ippo was then hit with a Corkscrew Blow to his heart. Ippo, seeing a followup attack coming, attempted to guard, however his body would not move, getting hit by the punch and going down, believing time had stopped for him. The spar then continued after Ippo got up, and when Ippo saw the Corkscrew Blow coming at him again, he attempted to block it, however Date successfully hit him with Ippo realising that Date's target was the heart before getting knocked down again. After getting up, Ippo continued to spar until the gong for the third round ended, thanking Date before leaving the gym.
Later that night, Ippo talked with Yamada (who watched the spar as Ippo's second) about the spar. When Ippo heard about how Yamada looks up to him and how he used to get picked on, Ippo told Yamada a story about when he himself got picked on for eleven years of his school life until he picked up boxing. The story moved Yamada, who thought that Ippo was strong from the start. Ippo believed that he does not know what true strength is, wondering if Date knows. When Ippo returned to the Kamogawa gym, he read a copy of the Boxing Fan magazine containing a statement about Date challenging the world after two or three more title defences. This disheartened Ippo, as he wanted to fight Date in the ring win or lose. Ippo was then immediately informed of a request from the Nakadai gym, requesting for him to fight the last year's Rookie King, Keigo Okita, who was also ranked fifth. After Ippo asked to accept the request, Kamogawa accepted, realising that Ippo would be ranked fifth if he wins.
When the match between Ippo and Okita began, both boxers had an in-fight where neither of them got a clean hit in until Ippo made Okita step back after hitting his guard. Okita used the Corkscrew Blow on Ippo's guard, causing Ippo's guard to break as his hand flung up in the air. Okita then began to use feints, tricking Ippo to guard his head, allowing Okita to get a body blow in. After being advised by Kamogawa to not go defensive and to not forget his boxing, Ippo decided to block Okita's jabs and bury into his space. However, Ippo was unable to do it due to Okita's feints, getting hit in the confusion. Okita soon got Ippo into a corner and broke his guard, leaving Ippo open for a Corkscrew Blow. Okita threw the Corkscrew Blow, however Ippo dodged it and hit the now defenceless Okita with a right uppercut, affecting his legs. Ippo and Okita both have another in-fight, with both fighters showing damage until Ippo downed Okita with a right. After Okita got back up, Ippo went on the offensive as Okita blocked his punches until both fighters threw a punch at the same time, with Ippo's punch landing first by a split second. After feinting Ippo, Okita began throwing a right Corkscrew Blow counter, however Ippo landed a right counter of his own, knocking down Okita to the mat. Okita was then unable to get up despite attempting to, resulting in Ippo winning the match. Before leaving the ring, Okita told Ippo that Date would not be as easy.
After watching Date's match against Toshio Suzuki, Ippo witnessed Date's victory interview where he was asked whether or not he would relinquish the belt and go for the world. Date answered that he would not relinquish the belt, as he has things to take care of in Japan, glaring at Ippo. Ippo glared back at Date after being nervous at first. Ippo then left the hall, with his eighth knockout victory and ranking fifth.
Due to a new boxing boom, a television station visited the Kamogawa gym in order to capture how the youth put their hopes in boxing. The interviewer was the idol, Kumiko Morita. After the members show their boxing to the television crew, spar with Kumiko, and get interviewed about their goals, the television crew left the gym. When the event got shown on television, the gym members realised that Ippo sent a challenge to the champion Date by saying that he wanted to fight Date on a national broadcast. The broadcast then showed Kumiko arriving at the Otowa Boxing Gym, where the third ranked boxer from Russia, Alexander Volg Zangief, claimed that he wanted Date's belt, shocking Ippo.
After Ippo sparred with Yamada, he left with Yamada for his Pro Test. After Yamada won, Ippo was overjoyed and congratulated him. When Ippo got back to the gym, Kamogawa and Yagi announced the Class A Tournament entry list. The entry list showed Ippo's featherweight class having Volg against Suzuki and Ippo against the second ranked Olympic representative, Takuma Saeki. Takamura then invited Ippo and the others to go to the annual training camp to prepare for the Class A Tournament. At the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Ippo informed his mother about the recent events and asked her if he could go to the training camp for a week, which she allowed him to. At the gym, Kamogawa revealed the date when the gym would go to the training camp, which made Ippo fire up and began mitt training with Kamogawa until Yagi urgently told Ippo that his mother was sent to the hospital after collapsing.
Upon hearing the sudden news of his mother being sent to the hospital after collapsing, Ippo rushed to the hospital and met Miyazaki. Ippo was informed by him that Hiroko fell after getting off the boat and that she needed to be hospitalised for a month due to anaemia from overwork. Seeing his mother in the hospital bed, Ippo regretted not noticing her being overworked before, feeling that he was selfish for making his mother work on the boat alone while he did things that he wanted to do. Ippo then began working at the fishing boat, noticing how hard it must have been for his mother to work on the boat and make his meals on top of that. At the hospital, Hiroko suggested 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 did not want to give away the boat that his father left them and he could do basic exercises while away from the gym.
Seeing that it was impossible to do the fishing boat business and boxing, he chose to work at the boat to help his mother. When he returned to the hospital, he saw his mother getting ready to leave two weeks before getting cleared. Knowing that his mother would just push herself too hard when she gets out, Ippo told her that he would not quit boxing, but it would be a hobby while he worked at the boat. Hearing from Yagi that Ippo's retiring, Fujii visited Ippo and gave him tapes of Saeki's matches. Fujii then attempted to stop Ippo from retiring, but was told by Ippo to leave him alone.
During a typhoon, Umezawa visited Ippo, offering his help at the fishing boat so that he could 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 four days of Umezawa helping at the fishing boat business, Ippo thought he quit and was surprised to see Umezawa, who told him to go do roadwork so that he can be a mangaka as Ippo boxes. When the Kamogawa gym members returned to the gym they were shocked to see Ippo in the gym. Takamura decided to have Ippo spar with him as a welcoming ceremony. After Ippo went down, he began to cry tears of happiness, as he was happy that he is back.
After Kamogawa helped Ippo train with a sandbag, he realised the right body blows he threw hurt him through the sandbag. He talked 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 decided to let him enter the Class A Tournament. After getting advice from Kimura that an out-boxer's worst opponent is someone that is faster than them, Ippo decided to be faster than Saeki, starting by finding his own rhythm. A week before the first round of the Class A Tournament, Ippo attempted to use out-boxing in a spar against Yamada, but realised that he could not throw punches while doing footwork. He then came up with a plan after talking with Yamada. Later, Ippo and Umezawa went to the hospital where Hiroko was being released at. There, Ippo received new boxing trunks that his mother sewed and boxing shoes that Umezawa bought. That night, Umezawa noticed Ippo poking holes in his new shoes, which Ippo told him that it was to reduce traction, and that he would definitely win his next match.
On the day of the first round of the Class A Tournament, Ippo bumped into Saeki in the weigh-in. Saeki commented on Ippo's fists and then told Ippo to come at him with everything he has. At the waiting room, Umezawa visited a nervous Ippo, wanting to take a picture of him for his mother. However, the film popped out of the camera and before he could fix it, the Kōrakuen Hall caller told Ippo to get ready for the match.
In the ring before the match began, Ippo explained to Kamogawa that he would stop his legs, planning to only attack when he comes to him. When the match began, Ippo entered the Peek-a-Boo style while Saeki kept his distance, going in a clockwise motion around Ippo. When Saeki walked towards Ippo and opened his guard in a "Free-Shot" pose, Ippo began throwing punches that Saeki dodged and then a body blow that got blocked, but pushed Saeki back from the power. Ippo then then pressured Saeki to go into a corner. Ippo attempts to hit Saeki at the corner, however Saeki dodged every punch while moving closer to Ippo. Ippo threw another punch, but was shocked to witness Saeki dodging and appearing behind him suddenly. The first round then shortly ended. At the corner, Ippo believed he was out of options since cornering Saeki did not work. Kamogawa instructed him that the waiting tactic was not wrong, and to aim for only body blows when Saeki is cornered.
When the second round began, Ippo pressured Saeki into a corner again and began punching Saeki, who successfully dodged the punches. Ippo then saw a chance for a hit, however Saeki created extra space by leaning into the ropes, dodging the punch. When Saeki got out of the corner, Ippo began getting hit by Flicker Jabs at the corner. When Ippo ran out from the corner, he realised his right eye could not open up due to swelling from the Flicker Jabs. Saeki began 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 noticed Ippo could not see in his right eye and asked him what he wanted to accomplish during the match. Ippo answered that he wanted to show everyone who was worried about him that he was alright. Kamogawa then told Ippo to show them that he was alright with one hit. When round three began, Ippo attempted to get closer to Saeki to create a smaller blind spot, however Saeki opened the distance and got into Ippo's blind spot again, landing hits on Ippo's face multiple times. Saeki hit Ippo with a body blow, causing Ippo to begin to fall until Ippo remembered that Umezawa told him not to fall on the advertisement as it would be bad advertising for the Makunouchi Fishing Boat. Saeki continued hitting Ippo, who then fell forward, leaning on Saeki as the third round ended. Ippo informed Kamogawa that he figured something out to catch Saeki after stumbling on him.
When the fourth round began, Saeki rushed forward and hit Ippo with multiple punches until Ippo threw a punch into his blind spot, making Saeki step back. After Saeki hit Ippo again from his blind spot, he made another attempt, however Ippo realised where he was coming from and landed a punch on Saeki's face and then a body blow, making Saeki go down. When the shocked Saeki stood back up, he got back into Ippo's blind spot only to be hit again and pushed out of Ippo's blind spot. Ippo then threw punches that get dodged. Saeki noticed that his body keeps freezing up. Ippo landed a punch to Saeki's face again and then an uppercut, knocking Saeki down. After Saeki tried to stand up, he fell back down with the referee ending the match with Ippo winning and passing the first round of the Class A Tournament.
In the waiting room, Umezawa stayed with Ippo as Kamogawa and Yagi had act as seconds for Aoki and Kimura. As Umezawa left to get water for Ippo, Saeki entered Ippo's room and asked why he could find him while he was in Ippo's blind spot. Ippo answered that it was because Saeki's rhythm was so precise. After hearing the answer, Saeki left the room. When Umezawa came back, he wondered how Ippo did not fall during the match, but Ippo told him it was because he was told not to fall on the advertisement, thanking Umezawa. Umezawa then attempted to take a picture of Ippo again only for the camera film to pop out again.
Ippo then watched the match between Volg and Suzuki, where he learned that Volg was called the "White Fang" and witnessed Volg using the White Fang, winning the match. Ippo was shocked by the performance of his next opponent and wondered why Volg did not smile after winning. After Aoki and Kimura won their matches, the boxers go to the Gaiant Echo karaoke to celebrate. There, Takamura decided to sing the song "Champion". Ippo was then shocked when he saw Hayami in the video as the song played. Ippo then joined Takamura to sing the song along with him.
After celebrating at the Gaiant Echo Karaoke, Takamura invited everyone to his house for a second party. Upon arrival to Takamura's home, Ippo learned that Yamada would be leaving Tokyo in two days. Ippo was shocked at the news and did not want to let Yamada leave. When Kimura mentioned a traditional Kamogawa farewell party, Ippo suggested to do it. Two days later, Ippo waited in the basement with everyone for Yamada. When Yamada entered the room, the farewell party began, with Yamada having to spar against Takamura, Aoki, Kimura. With Ippo as his second, Yamada fought against the three. After the spars, Ippo then got into the ring, wanting to spar for one round with Yamada to not be forgotten. Ippo decided to go all out and ends the spar by hitting Yamada with the technique Yamada told him he admired: the liver blow. With the farewell party over, Yamada leaves the gym, with Ippo seeing him off.
Later, with the semifinals of the Class A Tournament coming up for Aoki and Kimura, Ippo began examining videos of their opponent and then mimic their styles as he sparred with Aoki and Kimura. The day of Aoki and Kimura's semifinals of the Class A Tournament arrived. After the two lost, Ippo was shocked that despite how hard they trained, they lost. He was then told by Takamura that there can only be one winner, no matter how hard they work.
When Ippo returned to the gym, he told Kamogawa, who just came back from an interview with Volg's trainer, Ruslan Ramuda, that he could not find a way to defeat Volg, angering Kamogawa due to Ramuda's statements in the interview. Ippo was then instructed to train for a new weapon by doing two-hundred squats to strengthen his legs to be resilient to that of a gazelle. After a week of doing squats at a local pool, Ippo returned to the gym and met Kamogawa, who instructed him on how to use the new technique. Upon using the new technique called the Gazelle Punch on a sandbag, Ippo wondered if it will hit due to the huge motion. Ippo was then informed that the match with Volg will be a battle of endurance, fighting close range, throwing punches until one runs out of breath, with Ippo being able to use the Gazelle Punch if Volg runs out of breath. Kamogawa then tasked Ippo on endurance training to make sure he is not the one who runs out of breath. With the training Ippo was doing making Ippo's body become fatigue, Ippo received a massage fro Yamaguchi as instructed by Kamogawa. Ippo then continued his endurance training the next morning.
After watching Date's title defence match, Ippo met with Date in his waiting room to congratulate him. Ippo then learned that the other challenger candidate, Volg, was watching Date's match as well. At the Kōrakuen Station, Ippo overheard people talking about a "weird foreigner" who looked like he was in trouble. Ippo then met Volg, who was seeking help. Before Ippo helped him get a train ticket due to Volg not understanding the station's aap, Volg requested to talk with Ippo. During the conversation, Ippo felt as he could understand Volg, as, even though he does not like boxing, he boxes for his sick mother's soup and she is waiting for him in Russia.
Later, the finals for the Class A Tournament arrived. When Ippo and Volg arrive to the ring, Ippo felt as if the ring was getting smaller due to Volg's pressure, feeling as if he was locked in a cage with a wild beast. When the first round began, Ippo entered his Peek-a-Boo style. In an in-fight, Ippo and Volg attacked each other with a rush of left jabs, not landing any hits for a long period of time until Ippo was hit by an uppercut. Ippo began to block his face, however an uppercut went through his guard. Ippo tightened his guard, but was hit by a third uppercut. Ippo dodged an incoming follow-up and made an attempt to get away from the ropes. Volg stopped his attempt, and Ippo was hit by a series of blows that caused him to become unconscious. Volg threw a right straight at the unconscious Ippo, however, Ippo, still unconscious, stopped the attack with a right and began throwing a combination of lefts and rights on Volg's guard. When Volg backed up to the middle of the ring, Ippo woke up, and they both go into another in-fight until the gong ending the first round sounded.
When round two began, Ippo and Volg got into an in-fight. When Ippo dodged an attack, he landed the Gazelle Punch on Volg, knocking him down. When Volg got back up, Ippo became hopeful for a chance and charged at Volg, who dodged Ippo's punches. Seeing no way to stop Volg with jabs, Ippo attempted to land another Gazelle Punch, however Volg blocked it and began throwing a combination of punches at Ippo. Ippo was then hit by the White Fang, blocking the first hit from below, then got struck from the second hit from above, getting knocked down. With much struggle, Ippo got up and the second round ended. In the corner, Ippo asked Kamogawa what to do about Volg's White Fang, but Kamogawa simply told him to go for it.
As round three began, Ippo widened his stance, choosing to not run away. Ippo was hit repeatedly with a combination of punches on the ropes until the referee got between them, giving Ippo a standing down. After the referee continued the match, Ippo was shortly downed again by an uppercut. Recalling memories of Kamogawa, Ippo stood up and the match continued. Ippo began attacking again, with both fighters trading hits multiple times until the third round ended. At the corner, Ippo told Kamogawa how he remembered hitting the mitts with Kamogawa when he did not know what to do, and his punches began hitting.
Round four then began, and Ippo was immediately hit with body blows and a blow to the liver. Ippo and Volg then continue an exchange of punches. When Ippo believed it to be the end for him, Volg missed an attack. Ippo began attacking Volg again, who was unable to dodge Ippo's punches due to lacking the stamina. As Ippo was preparing to use the Gazelle Punch, Volg threw a big punch that missed as a feint, knowing that it was a feint, Ippo widened his stance, allowing him to hit Volg with a Low Gazelle Punch and then struck Volg two times, causing him to go down. Volg got back up, and Ippo attacked Volg's guard at the ropes until Volg clinched. When the clinch broke, the two exchanged hits until the gong sounded ending the fourth round.
When round five began, Ippo and Volg widen their stance and commenced an in-fight battle. When Volg saw a chance, he went for his White Fang, however, Ippo dodged both hits. Noticing Volg was unable to breath anymore as Volg gasped for air, Ippo delivered a Gazelle Punch on the defenceless Volg, causing him to go down. With Volg unable to continue, Ippo was declared the winner of the Class A Tournament. While in the ring, Ippo passed out and was escorted to the hospital on a stretcher.
After waking up at the Kawai Hospital, he found Kumi working there and found out that Mashiba had also won the Class A tournament. Ippo went to his celebration party where Takamura, Kimura and Aoki gathered four girls from the hospital to party with them. The group then played a game of bowling, with the first winner getting to pick first which girl they want to go out with, at the end of the game, Ippo went out with Kumi. After escorting her home, he went into her house and had a short conversation before Ippo got scared of Mashiba and left. When Ippo returned to the gym, Kamogawa announced that the Champion Carnival has been scheduled with Ippo fighting the current JBC featherweight champion, Date Eiji. Ippo, having trouble finding an plan against Date, went to Takamura's house to find magazines to help him, but came to a conclusion that he had no plan and instead would throw everything he learned at him as the challenger.
Ippo then went with Takamura for his match against Atsushi Tamaki. There, he saw Date who shocked Ippo when he told him his punches were light. After Takamura's match, Takamura informed Ippo that Date's punches were heavy because of people's feelings are connected to his fists. After finding out Mashiba was a junior lightweight champion now, Ippo got a call from Kumi asking him to come over for the celebration party. After the celebration party and encouragement from Mashiba, Ippo was requested to spar in the gym for the press with a Philippines junior featherweight fourth ranked boxer. After defeating the boxer, he sparred with Kimura with a strategy to defeat Date.
When the day of the match arrived and with both boxer's in the ring, the match began. In the first round, Ippo guarded his left side to eliminate Date's Corkscrew Blow. Ippo and Date threw punches at each other with no punches landing cleanly until Date left his left side open after missing an uppercut. Seeing no way to block it in time, Date decided to take the hit and Ippo delivered a liver blow. Ippo realised that Date was waiting for him to attack to leave himself open and now he was open for Date to hit him as he was unable to block. Ippo was then hit with a left straight. Ippo rushed towards Date, who backed up to the ropes. Ippo saw a right hook incoming and blocked his face, however Date hit him under the ear. Date continued to show the difference in experience and threw a Corkscrew Blow after landing a counter, however Ippo blocked it and pushed Date back to the ropes. Date noticed that Ippo was planning to hit him from a clinch distance, but deduced that Ippo could not land a good hit from that distance. He was then surprised when Ippo landed a liver blow, making Date's body buckle over. Ippo continued pushing Date back with a barrage to his guard. Ippo landed a clean right to Date's face. Date attempted to clinch until he remembered that Ippo could throw a liver blow at that range and quickly lets go when Ippo began the motion. The round then ended when Ippo pushed Date to the ropes again, ending the round with a draw in points.
When the second round began, Date attempted to beat Ippo at his best range in an in-fight, which caused Date trouble as Ippo hit him and Date was barely able to keep his guard up. Date noticed Ippo was about to use the liver blow and blocked his right side, however it turned out to be a feint. Ippo then landed a barrage of punches to Date's face, as his neck swings from every blow until the second round ended. Ippo informed Kamogawa that Date did not take any damage despite hitting him at full swing. Kamogawa did not believe that to be the case and Ippo was instructed to not change the fight plan.
The third round began and Date rushed towards Ippo looking for another in-fight. Date was only able to land some light punches as Ippo attacked Date's guard. Ippo landed a body blow and began hitting Date's face again, however Date spun his neck to roll the punches, negating the damage. Ippo was then hit with a left jab, causing him to go down. Ippo got back up as he was in shock as his punches seemed to be doing no damage. Ippo went for body blows, but the punches were unable to do damage due to Date moving his guard along with Ippo's punches at the moment of impact. Thinking that if he doesn't land any clean punches, he would not be able to knock Date down, Ippo attempted to throw a big punch. However Date countered it and Ippo was hit with a combination of attacks until the gong sounded, ending the round. Ippo began questioning himself if he is being too predictable. Ippo was informed that he was using instincts and intelligence cultivated from years of experience.
In the fourth round, Ippo kept getting hit with clean punches. After Date used the Neck Spin to neutralise an attack, Ippo landed 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 was still standing, with Ippo wondering if his punches were light. Ippo then felt the weight of a champion's fist as Date unleashed a full powered right, going through Ippo's guard and hitting him. Date then landed multiple hits until he attacked with a punch from above. Ippo, wanting to give it his all like he said to Takamura, threw an uppercut, hitting Date cleanly. Damaged from the attack, Date barely dodged Ippo's incoming attack, with the round ending shortly after. In the corner, barely able to speak, he told Kamogawa that he will not stop until he gives everything he has, as he is the challenger.
In round five, Ippo successfully blocked Date's Corkscrew Blows out of pure faith in Kamogawa. Ippo and Date had a battle of exchanges, with Ippo eventually leaning on Date and attacking him. When Date got far enough away from Ippo, Ippo fell from his own weight, resulting in himself getting downed. Ippo slowly got up, looking for Date. When he found Date, Ippo walked up to him, and, after a quick exchange, readied a liver blow. Seeing this, Date stepped back and landed the Heart Break Shot on Ippo. Just as Date was about to land another hit on the frozen Ippo, the referee stopped the match as Kamogawa had thrown the towel into the ring while Ippo fell down, resulting in Date winning and Ippo losing for the first time in his career.
Later, in his waiting room, Kamogawa apologised to Ippo for his poor planning as Ippo apologised himself, wishing for Kamogawa to continue looking after him. Ippo then thanked everyone for their cheering.
After waking up, he found out that Date relinquished the belt and Sendō and Volg were going to have a match for it. After being told to take a break from boxing for three months, seeing Kōrakuen Hall during a date with Kumi, and watching a replay of his match, he started feeling the effects of losing. Ippo went to Osaka to watch Sendō and Volg's match where he met Miyata, who he had not seen since he came back to Japan. The two watched Sendō and Volg fight for the JBC featherweight belt, which ended in a controversial win for Sendō. After the fight, Ippo found out from Fujii, that the Otowa Boxing Gym was cutting ties with Volg. who was leaving Japan that evening. Ippo took a taxi to the airport where Volg was leaving. There, Volg thanked Ippo for teaching him the fun in boxing and gave Ippo his old boxing gloves. Volg left, after saying his last Japanese word to Ippo, "Sayonara", leaving Ippo in tears as he witnessed Volg walking away.
Later, after watching Miyata fight against Li Chon Pir, Ippo met Date, who commented on Miyata's match and revealed to Ippo that he would be fighting an American who was ranked fifth in the WBA, and if he wins he would be going after the world title. Date warned Ippo before leaving to not idle around too long by having no matches while everyone else is progressing, or he will be forgotten. Ippo went to the gym and found out that him, Aoki and Kimura have matches coming up. With Ippo only knowing the name of his opponent, Ponchai Chuwatana and record, he did not know what he looked like or what his fighting style was. Kamogawa had Ippo training more on defence than offence. During training, Kamogawa collapsed and was sent to the hospital. At the hospital, Kamogawa revealed the goal for his match, to hit before getting hit. Ippo began watching tapes of Mike Tyson and noted how he bobs his head for defence. Kamogawa recovered from the hospital and Ippo went to the weigh-in, where he met Ponchai for the first time.
After the weigh-in, Ippo did a quick review with Umezawa on his opponent, which he was nervous about. Ippo then did one last training session before the match, with Umezawa noticing how Ippo's movements are different from before. When the day of Ippo, Aoki, and Kimura's comeback matches arrive, Ippo arrived to the ring in his five month absence after Aoki and Kimura won, and looked back at how much things have changed since his first loss. In the ring, Ippo was instructed to start with his left and observe Ponchai for the first round. With Ippo and Ponchai in the middle of the ring, the match began.
When Ippo put both fists forward to start the match, Ponchai knocked one of his fists back and threw a right which hit a surprised Ippo's guard. Ippo blocked Ponchai's attacks until Ippo dodged two big punches by weaving. Ippo then threw a one-two. which pushed back Ponchai, who guarded the attack. Ponchai stepped back from another attack from Ippo and attacked, with his punches missing the weaving Ippo who advanced forward. Ippo made Ponchai's guard break by throwing an uppercut, which he then followed with a right. However, Ponchai spins his neck with the punch, negating the damage. Ippo got pushed back to the centre of the ring while dodging Ponchai's attacks. Ippo stopped stepping back, remembering that he fought back Date's neck spinning by throwing small and precise punches. As both boxers threw punches that miss in close range, Ippo saw an opening for a liver blow and hit Ponchai in the liver. With Ponchai's face uncovered, Ippo hit him with a right uppercut. Ponchai immediately recovers and threw a right, barely grazing Ippo. Ippo noticed that Ponchai's eyes show that he was determined not to lose. The gong to the end of the first round sounded, with Ippo leading in points 10-9. After Kamogawa gave Ippo advice, Ippo declared a victory in the next round by claiming that he would defeat him in the next round to his coach.
In the second round, when Ippo threw a left, Ponchai threw a right in an attempt to use a right Cross Counter, but Ippo dodged it. Ippo began weaving his body as Ponchai attempted to land a clean hit. Ippo eventually got into the back and forth motion of a side way figure eight, throwing punches from side to side, successfully hitting Ponchai until he went down. Kamogawa was in awe witnessing Ippo's attack, recognising it as the Jack Dempsey's Dempsey Roll. The referee then saw Ponchai unable to continue and ended the match, with Ippo winning his come back match.
Overjoyed in his victory, Kamogawa informed Ippo that he used the Dempsey Roll, with Ippo not knowing what a Dempsey Roll was. Ippo was then interviewed by the ring interviewer. When Ippo was asked what his next goal is, the crowd noticed the champion Sendō in the crowd. Sendō walked up to the ring and signals for the microphone. Sendō expressed that he does not care about titles such as a "champion" and claimed that he owed Ippo one, wanting to fight Ippo again. Ippo replied, accepting the rematch. Ippo then walked away from the ring, feeling thrilled to walk down from the ring after winning.
At the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Umezawa showed Ippo all the magazines of his comeback match against Ponchai he bought in excitement, which had more coverage about the mic performance when Sendō requested a rematch than the actual match. Takamura visited Ippo, where he found an album called "memories" which contained pictures of him during his school days. Takamura noticed a girl who he thought was cute, Ippo remembered her as the first girl willing to talk to him in school. He then found old dried leaves which were the ten leaves Ippo caught in order to become a boxer. The leaves then crumbled, making Ippo angry. Ippo and Takamura leave and go to Aoki's house. When Takamura found an album in Aoki's house and found an image of Aoki and Kimura in their delinquent days, Ippo was curious about their past. Ippo, Takamura, and Aoki then go to Kimura's house where they were informed by his mother that he has a fever. When they entered Kimura's room, Ippo saw an Arowana, which Kimura deemed his pride and joy. When Ippo fed the fish, it fainted, not realising it was Kimura's aspirin. This made Kimura angry and hit Aoki, wondering why he came. Ippo then pointed out that Aoki and Kimura looked like they got along well in their delinquent photos, wanting to know details about their past. Aoki and Kimura then told Ippo their past as delinquents up to when they won their debut matches. After telling Ippo their story, Takamura teased the two by offering them to hit him, causing Aoki and Kimura to retaliate and hit Ippo for starting it until Ippo pointed out that the fish was up and moving.
Ippo watched Sendō's first title defence match against Saeki on TV. He was amazed how Sendō won, thinking that Sendō was predicting his opponent's movements using a sixth sense. Ippo was then visited by Kamogawa, who asked for Ippo's reaction to the match. Ippo expressed his shock of him beating someone as fast as Saeki in a minute, noting Sendō's growth after each match to be inhuman. Kamogawa told Ippo that his next match would be against the champion Sendō, urging him to win and take the belt. Ippo felt that even a non-title match against Sendō would suffice, as he felt as if their last match never ended. As Kamogawa began to leave, Ippo claimed that he believed that the Dempsey Roll wouldn't work on Sendō. Kamogawa simply instructed him to rest his body for the fight and to not think about it.
In the Kamogawa gym, Ippo discovered that the Naniwa Boxing Commission agreed with Kamogawa to let Ippo and Sendō fight, with the fight happening two months after Sendō's second title defence and that the Kamogawa gym would be going to a training camp. Fired up with the announcements, Ippo went with Takamura to the Kōrakuen Hall where Date is challenging a fifth ranker in the WBA in order for a chance to challenge the champion Ricardo Martínez. After Date won the match Ippo met with Date and congratulated him. Date then made Ippo think about a "completed form" of his Dempsey Roll after he mentioned Sendō's style of always pushing forward, which Ippo realised that the Dempsey Roll relies on an opponent stepping back to be used. Later, Ippo and the other boxers got ready to go to the training camp at the beach before Kamogawa explained that they would be going to the mountains where a friend of his was letting him use his pension, much to the boxers (besides Ippo) annoyance. Ippo and everyone else at the Kamogawa gym arrived at the Pension Yoshio and was greeted by Kamogawa's friend and rival Ginpachi Nekota, with Nekota recognising Ippo from sports magazines and videos. Kamogawa then had Ippo run with Aoki, Kimura, and Shinoda. Before they left, Nekota warned them of bears.
While running in the woods and acknowledging the strengths of the roadwork, Ippo noticed a bear behind him, making him run faster back to the house as he warned the rest of the group. When he returned, Nekota offered something to keep the bears away, leaving the group relieved. Unable to sleep, Ippo went outside and reflected about the Dempsey Roll's completed form. Kamogawa approached Ippo and explained that he has to master every stage of the Dempsey Roll, which he admitted to be difficult, but noted that forcing Sendō back will be harder. The next day, Ippo received a bell to keep bears away and ran with Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura in the woods. Just as the runners began deciding that the bells were working, Ippo was jumped on by an animal. When Aoki and Kimura ran in fear back to inform the others that Ippo was attacked by a bear, Ippo came back with a white dog, which Nekota revealed that it was his dog, Hachi.
Kamogawa explained what everyone would be doing for their stay for the week, with Kamogawa instructing Ippo to chop logs with an axe. As Ippo did his training, Nekota visited him. Ippo requested his help on how to chop wood properly. Ippo watched in awe as Nekota chopped wood perfectly. Realising that Ippo was training to increase his power, Nekota warned Ippo that power-to-power battles have devastating lasting effects, breaking boxers down by becoming Punch Drunk, telling him how he himself retired because of brain damage and still has effects. Despite the story, Ippo decided that he could not run away from Sendō. Ippo then became curious when Nekota mentioned of a way of punching without punching. After finishing his log training, Ippo went inside the house where Kamogawa began explaining the "Sakki" and how Nekota used it on him while they were boxers. With Ippo not figuring out the difference between Sakki and a regular feint, Takamura decided to show Ippo the difference by sparring with him.
Outside, Ippo and Takamura began to spar in order for Ippo to see the Sakki. When the spar began, Ippo tested a regular feint on Takamura before landing a full-force blow on him accidentally. Ippo then dodged Takamura's full swings until Ippo became confused when he saw a punch coming, but it never came, realising that that was the Sakki. Seeing as Ippo had figured out the Sakki, Takamura stopped the spar. That night, Ippo compared Kamogawa and Nekota not accepting their last match ending in a draw with him feeling as if his fight against Sendō never ended. On the final day of the training camp, tirelessly did mitt training with Kamogawa and then went back to chopping wood after. Ippo was visited by Nekota, who understood how Ippo felt fighting a man more than once. Ippo asked him how a rematch felt like, which he then learned to look at his opponent's eyes to know their state. As night came, Takamura had not returned from his roadwork. Beginning to worry about Takamura running into a bear, Ippo wondered if he could defeat one. When an injured Takamura returned and claimed to have knocked a bear out, Ippo wrapped up Takamura's wounds with bandages. Nekota then brought a bear nabe out for everyone to eat. When Nekota told a story of how he killed the bear that was in the bear nabe, Takamura began crying when the bear he knocked out and let live was turned into the bear nabe, making Ippo realise the story was true.
The next morning, when it was time for the Kamogawa gym to head back to Tokyo, Ippo thanked Nekota for everything and gave him his farewell. Once at the gym, a coach requested to Kamogawa for his boxer, the fourth ranker in the JBC rankings, Akira Shigeta, to spar against Ippo. When Kamogawa accepted the request, Ippo began sparring with Shigeta, recognising him as Sendō's next opponent and wishing to get information on him. As Ippo began having trouble against Shigeta, he noticed that he is a southpaw. Ippo continued having difficulty against Shigeta until the three round spar ended. Kamogawa then made Ippo realise a possibility of the title switching hands, with him possibly fighting Shigeta for the title instead. Ippo returned home and gave Umezawa a bell for repelling bears away and was asked if the story of Takamura defeating a bear was true by Umezawa, which he confirmed before noticing that Nekota reported it. Ippo then received a phone call from Sendō who asked if the bear story was true. After confirming, Ippo warned Sendō about Shigeta, but Sendō claimed to not care about him and only has been training to go against Ippo, who began to hear a certain sound. He was then offered tickets to see Sendō's match against Shigeta, but Sendō told him he had to pay.
After axing logs at his home, he went to the Kamogawa gym where Takamura was telling reporters the story how he defeated a bear. Once the reporters left, Fujii stayed and accidentally revealed that Takamura would be fighting in a world ranked match. After Kamogawa explained what Takamura would be doing if everything went through, Ippo became fired up about the gym possibly having it's first world champion and began hitting the sandbag. Later, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura's matches. Outside the hall, Ippo noticed Nekota arguing with an employee trying to let Hachi in. After it was decided that Hachi had to stay outside, Ippo and Nekota entered the hall, with Ippo wondering what was in Nekota's big sack. Ippo then watched with Nekota as Kimura and Aoki won their matches. Before Takamura's match began, Ippo was approached by Mari Īmura, who expressed her interest in him. When Takamura's match against Takaaki Itō was about to begin, Ippo was shocked about Takamura's entrance as he wore a bear's skin to the ring and revealed a scar of three bear claws on his chest. When Takamura won the match with only his left, Ippo discovered from Nekota that he went with an old proverb of "He who rules with his left rules the world." Ippo then celebrated with the others at the Sugar Ray.
With Kamogawa and Nekota passed out from drinking until morning, Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura gone, Ippo became the centre of attention with the other gym members. When Ippo left the gym, he saw Tomiko and Kumi. Ippo informed Tomiko that Aoki had not returned to the gym, causing her to leave Kumi with Ippo. Ippo then did roadwork while Kumi followed him, During a break, Ippo made a promise to Kumi to be the first female to get an autograph from him. They then split ways so that Kumi could buy a paper and pen for Ippo to sign his autograph. At the gym, Ippo met Mari, who wanted to see Ippo spar, but when she found out Ippo could not spar, she decided to ask him questions. When asked what match left the biggest impression to him, Ippo answered that it was his match against Date. Ippo was then pressured into signing his autograph for Mari. When he left the gym, he discovered a "baka" sign outside, not knowing that Kumi put it there due to Ippo breaking his promise. Later, Ippo came back to the gym and saw that Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura had returned. As Nekota began training students during his stay at the gym, Ippo noted how experienced he was to Takamura. Ippo and Takamura then discussed how Takamura's next match may be decided soon, with Ippo realising that Takamura was already preparing for his junior middleweight world match. Later, Nekota left the gym to go back to his pension, with Ippo giving him his farewells. Ippo then received his tickets to Sendō's title defence against Shigeta.
On the train to Osaka, Ippo and Kamogawa discussed the odds of Sendō winning against Shigeta. When they arrived to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, they were met with an old woman before the match who they discovered was Sendō's grandmother. Just as Sendō's second JBC featherweight title defence match against the confident Shigeta was about to begin, Ippo had to leave the seats to take the grandmother to the bathroom. When Ippo returned with the grandmother, he was shocked to witness Sendō getting hit in a one-sided fight in the first round. When asked what he would do against Shigeta, Ippo told Kamogawa his close-ranged plan of going against the southpaw's right jabs, however Kamogawa notes that the difference between Ippo and Sendō is that Sendō attacks in middle range, with middle range being in Shigeta's favour. After Sendō defeated Shigeta in the third round, an interview commenced. When Sendō announced to his fans that he would be fighting Ippo in a rematch in the Kōrakuen Hall, he handed Ippo the mic. After much aggression from Sendō's fans, Ippo told everyone that he wishes to spend his twenty-third birthday in a good mood by winning the title match which is close to his birthday, gaining respect from the crowd. Before leaving the stadium, Ippo and Kamogawa went to visit Shigeta's room. As Ippo and Kamogawa left the stadium, Ippo believed Shigeta to be in better condition than he thought, however Kamogawa noted Shigeta's reaction to his trainer's hand coming towards him was a sign of Punch Eye. Kamogawa warned Ippo of Sendō's ability to implant fear into his opponent, becoming a monstrous champion.
While thinking about Sendō's performance and how Sendō sealed his Dempsey Roll, Ippo got a phone call from Kumi. Ippo asked her to go somewhere with him, which she agreed to. Ippo looked into a dating magazine with dating spot suggestions and decided to go to the Shimono Zoo with Kumi. While seeing the animals and comparing some with people they know, Ippo stopped by a tiger, who he compared to Sendō, before getting urinated on by the animal. After getting a change of clothes, Ippo apologised for thinking about boxing during his date, but Kumi admitted she could not try to stop a boxer to not think about boxing. Ippo then decided o make up for giving his autograph to another girl besides her by promising that the first autograph he gives as the JBC featherweight champion, will be to her.
Later, Ippo went to the Yamaguchi Chiropractic. When Yamaguchi noticed Ippo's back muscles had gotten bigger, Ippo was warned that while he is strengthening his muscles, strengthening his bone is a more complex process, with greater power leading to greater risks of injuring his fist again. To prevent this, Ippo received a shock absorption rubber to put in his bandages. As instructed by Kamogawa, for five days, Ippo went to different gyms to spar against opponents from different weight classes. Ippo successfully knocked out a junior lightweight, junior featherweight, lightweight, featherweight, and a welterweight. Ippo went back to the Kamogawa gym where Aoki ended Ippo's knockout streak. When Fujii entered the gym, Ippo learned that Mari went to Osaka for research.
Later, Ippo was approached by Mari, who returned from Osaka, asking for his opinion on her magazine article about his and Sendō's match. Ippo described the article section about Sendō's spar as if he was watching it and noted Sendō's widened stance would make it hard to push him back and felt that he won't be able to use his Dempsey Roll. Ippo then expressed how instead of going into the match thinking of it as a title match, he believed that they are not fighting over a belt. At his home, Ippo gave a ticket to Umezawa and planned on giving two to Kumi and one to Nekota along with a letter. Ippo was then unable to sleep that night in his room as his heart would not stop racing in anticipation for the fight.
The day before the match, Ippo arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall and met Sendō in the weigh-in room. Ippo was surprised at the champion's relaxed nature and both boxers were amazed of each other's muscle build as they partake in the weigh-in. After the two passed the check, Ippo ran into Sendō again while trying to leave the hall. While Ippo mentioned how calm Sendō was, Sendō explained that he is in fact not calm. After their conversation, they shake hands while making a statement how they will win against each other. The next day, in Ippo's waiting room, after Kamogawa reminded Ippo that their previous fight was a fight between Rookie Kings, and now it is to box as a challenger against a champion, Ippo left for the ring. When both fighters entered the ring, they were unable to remain calm. The gong then sounded for the title match.
Immediately after the signal to begin the first round was given, Ippo dashed towards the unsuspecting champion and got into his Dempsey Roll motion. After failing to hit Ippo during the motion, Sendō could only block the punches coming from both sides. Once Ippo broke Sendō's guard, Ippo hit Sendō's face and caused him to go down. After Sendō got up, Ippo sent out another Dempsey Roll which almost downed Sendō again, however he hung onto the ropes. Ippo then blocked Sendō's right. Despite Ippo's block, the right caused Ippo's nose to spurt blood. As Ippo began the Dempsey Roll motion, his motion was stopped by Sendō's left hitting him. The two then entered an even in-fight brawl at the centre of the ring until the referee separated them as the round ended. At the corner, Ippo realised that if he guards too often and not exchange blows, he will lose.
When the second round began, Ippo and Sendō continued their in-fight brawl as the cheering fans stomp their feet, causing the hall to shake. The even hitting match at the centre of the ring ended as Ippo began to get pushed back. Ippo then became worried as Sendō appeared bigger to him than before. Overwhelmed by the pressure, Ippo was beaten into a corner by Sendō, who implanted fear into the challenger until the second round ends. At the corner, Ippo was instructed to attack instead of defending and to take the initiative.
In the third round, Ippo attempted to attack after barely dodging the champion's punches, but he got pressured into blocking instead. Ippo then became confused as he witnessed Sendō using the Sakki, eventually cornering himself. After getting hit at the corner, Ippo barely dodged an attack and slipped. As he falls, he felt as if the match was over until he realised that he had not done everything he could do. Ippo regained his footing and, as Sendō was launching his left Smash, Ippo used Sakki, causing Sendō to cancel his Smash and step back. The third round then ended. At the corner, while Ippo was in a daze trying to think of what he practised, Hachi barked from the crowd. This caused Ippo to remember his training at the Pension Yoshio for the Sakki. He then got ready to continue the fight with a look of courage and confidence that he will show everyone what he learned.
In the fourth round, Ippo advanced toward Sendō while throwing punches and knocked his Smash away with his hand, stopping it. Ippo then began weaving to dodge feints and real punches. Ippo and Sendō began an in-fight exchange until Ippo pushed Sendō back with a right. Ippo then noticed Sendō about to use a Smash, guarding his face for a left Smash, however Sendō sent out a right Smash which goes through Ippo's guard. Sendō then rushed Ippo into a corner by throwing punches at his block. Believing to have won the fight, Sendō sent out a big left, however, Ippo hit Sendō with a Gazelle Punch as Sendō was throwing his left, causing Sendō to go down. When Sendō got up, Ippo dashed towards Sendō and got ready to motion his Dempsey Roll, however his knees drop, preventing him from using it. The gong then sounded to end the round as Sendō was about to land a punch. In the corner, after Kamogawa gave Ippo encouragement, he got ready for round five.
When the fifth round began, Ippo quickly got Sendō into a corner until Ippo got hit by a counter. The two then switched positions as Sendō got away from the corner and put Ippo into one. Eventually, Sendō got pushed back with his face bloodied, and Ippo was then hit with a Cross Counter as he charged at Sendō.
After Ippo got pushed into a corner and a short exchange occurred, Ippo fell down. The confused Ippo got back up, and, when the match continued, Sendō quickly went towards Ippo. Ippo attacked first, however Ippo was hit by a right straight, causing Ippo to go down a second time. In a daze, Ippo did not want to think about getting the belt anymore and believed that closing his eyes and going to sleep would be easier. Ippo then got back to his senses and got back up, not wanting to repeat what happened when he lost to Date. Ippo was then quickly beaten into a corner. When Sendō prepared to send out a Smash, Ippo saw an opening and hit Sendō with a liver blow, cracking two of his ribs. Sendō continued his onslaught on Ippo at the corner with Ippo landing the liver two more times, further cracking Sendō's ribs until the fifth round ended. In the corner, Ippo asked Kamogawa what it means to be strong. Kamogawa instructed Ippo to defeat Sendō to get his answer.
On the sixth round, Ippo and Sendō quickly got into an in-fight exchange. During the exchange, Ippo recalled his past, wanting to know what it means to be strong. He then acknowledged that his answer is right in front of them. Their exchange then ended after the gong sounded ending the sixth round. Both boxers remain standing at their corners with both of them thinking that the next round is the end as they did not have much energy left and plan on using only big punches.
When the seventh round began, Sendō immediately used the Cross-Arm Block, making Ippo step back. When Sendō got closer to Ippo, Ippo motioned for the Dempsey Roll, however Sendō pushed into Ippo mid-motion, stopping the Dempsey Roll. Ippo and Sendō hit each other at the same time with Sendō landing a clean hit on Ippo with a left Smash and Ippo landing a liver blow, further breaking Sendō's ribs. The two step back from the damage. Ippo recovered first and landed a right straight. Ippo then dodged a right Smash and landed another liver blow on Sendō. Sendō attempted to block a follow-up punch, however it was Ippo's Sakki. Ippo then landed a Gazelle Punch, breaking Sendō's guard. Ippo then launched a Dempsey Roll, hitting Sendō until he went down. Ippo witnessed as Sendō got up on the count of six, looking at him until Sendō fell over on the referee's shoulder at the count of ten, resulting in Sendō losing his title and Ippo becoming the JBC featherweight champion.
With Ippo still not understanding the situation, Kamogawa directed Ippo's attention to Sendō. After Ippo thanked Sendō, Sendō wished to meet him in the ring again for a third rematch. Ippo received his JBC featherweight belt and raised his arms in joy as he becomes the champion. The camera crew then asked the champion for a pose. When Ippo posed, Hachi appeared in the ring and posed with him as the picture gets taken.
In Ippo's changing room, before Ippo left with his gym mates to take him home, Kamogawa told him "very well done." When Ippo returned home, he immediately went to sleep with the champion belt with him. Two days later, Ippo woke up, and became surprised to see his champion belt next to him and quickly realised that he won. After Umezawa showed him magazines about Ippo's win, he was informed to call Aoki as his gym mates were forming a celebration party. As Ippo went to the phone, Hiroko congratulated him. Ippo then arrived late to his party at the Sugar Ray. Ippo met Kumi, who congratulated him. Yagi then got Ippo onto the stage with his belt and introduced him to everyone and revealed that it is his 20th birthday.
As a present, Nekota gave Ippo a puppy from Hachi. As Ippo held the puppy, he defecates on Ippo's belt. After cleaning the belt, Ippo was requested to sing a song. Ippo chose the "Champion" song, which caused his gym mates to throw things at him for being arrogant, making Ippo feel as if it was the greatest day of his life. After the party, Kamogawa informed Ippo that he broke two of Sendō's ribs, and that if that did not happen, Sendō could have been the one celebrating. Kamogawa then asked if Ippo found his answer of what it means to be strong, however, Ippo claimed to not have found the answer.
After Ippo did roadwork with his puppy (which he quickly realised can not keep up with him), Ippo returned to his house where he received a call from Kumi asking to meet up with him. When Ippo met Kumi, he was gifted a jogging suit as a late birthday gift due to her not knowing it was his birthday when she came to his celebration party. Ippo then gave her his signature as a champion as he promised earlier. Though happy that he remembered, Kumi claimed that she can not see him again. Ippo became heartbroken and confused as Kumi ran away without saying why. Ippo then decided to go to the Kamogawa gym and entered Kamogawa's office where he learned that the annual Champion Carnival was commencing, with two boxers from the gym fighting. Kamogawa revealed that before Ippo's first JBC featherweight title defence, Kimura has a JBC junior lightweight title match against the champion Mashiba Ryō. Ippo then assumed that this was the reason Kumi made her earlier statement, leaving mixed feelings about the match. When Kimura left the gym to seek help from someone he claimed would be able to help him, Ippo wondered who it was, which Takamura hinted towards Miyata. At Takamura's house, Ippo mentioned how sparring with Miyata was a good choice, however he believed it was bad luck that Kimura's opponent is Mashiba. Takamura then claimed Ippo was the one with bad luck due to his relationship with Kumi being affected and made him call the Mashiba family's house to make up with Kumi. Ryō answered the phone instead and gave a malicious comment about holding a grudge against the Kamogawa gym and using Kimura as a way for payback. The next day, since Takamura told Aoki and Kimura about their conversation, Ippo got teased by Aoki and Takamura while Kimura was angry that Mashiba is looking down on him. When Kimura left for the Kawahara Boxing Gym in order to spar with Miyata, Takamura told Ippo how Aoki is nervous about the situation, as his rival is going for his first title match and wishes to help Kimura, but he does not have the strength to.
Later, Ippo and Kumi met up again at a restaurant. Kumi apologised for what she said to Ippo, as boxing is just a sport and did not want to end their relationship over it. After Kimura and then Mashiba spot Ippo and Kumi together and made a scene, Kumi runs away again and told Ippo they should not see each other for a while. At the Kamogawa gym, per Ippo's request, Mari gave Ippo tapes of Mashiba's spars before his last title defence. Ippo then gave them to Aoki, as he wanted to deliver them himself. After two and a half weeks of Kimura's absence from the Kamogawa gym, Ippo, Aoki, and Takamura went to the Kawahara gym to observe Kimura's spar against Miyata. After witnessing Kimura using an in-fighter's way of boxing, Ippo, Takamura, and Aoki discussed how impressive picking up a new fighting style in a short span of time is, however, Takamura believed that Kimura will soon realise something and have a desperate shock while trying to go through with his plan.
At Takamura's home, Takamura told Ippo and Aoki that Kimura has nothing and even if he comes up with an in-fighter strategy, it won't work as Mashiba is experienced in fighting in-fighters. Ippo and Aoki decided to tell Kimura this, however, they could not bring themselves to interrupt Kimura as they witness Kimura in a park practising by punching on a tire, with Ippo predicting that Kimura is training for a body blow when he gets into Mashiba's left side. After three hours of practising, Kimura left and then a group of people see the tire he was punching and began to mess with it until they were confronted by Aoki. The group became angry at the two for Aoki's threat if they don't stop messing with Kimura's tire and began attacking Aoki and Ippo, who told Aoki not to fight back as they are pro boxers. After they got beat up, Ippo embarrassed Aoki by noting how close he is to Kimura by stepping in to stop them. Aoki explained that when they train the same amount, Kimura suffers the most and that when he loses the pain is also worse, but Ippo and Aoki agree that winning must be better, especially a title match. When Kimura had not come to the Kamogawa nor the Kawahara gym, Takamura believed that Kimura ran away cowardly asking Ippo and Aoki for proof that he didn't run away. Ippo and Aoki went back to Hara Park to see for themselves. There, they noticed that the tire is on the ground with marks on two different spots with one that was not there when they last checked. With the match poster up, Kimura returned to the Kamogawa gym and revealed that he has a new technique called the "Dragonfish Blow", he sparred with Aoki to show everyone at the gym. When he saw the new technique, Ippo believed that Kimura's overhand could even reach Mashiba's jaw.
When the day of Kimura's title match arrived, Ippo and everyone else went into Kimura's room, where Kimura informed everyone that if he loses, he would retire. With Ippo visibly upset, Kimura vowed to become the champion and be even with him again. Ippo then watched the match where Kimura lost in the ninth round. While reporters were talking to Kimura, Ippo listened as Kimura told them that he has retired. At the Kamogawa gym, Ippo realised that, like him, Aoki and Takamura seemed saddened by Kimura's retirement. He then told the two how his mother named his puppy Wanpo as a pun of his own name. When Wanpo went outside the gym and barked, Ippo and the others went outside and saw Kimura. Kimura then announced that he would come back by changing his given name from kanji to katakana.
After receiving a ticket from Kimura, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch the JBC junior featherweight title match between Hayami and Kobashi, as the previous champion relinquished his belt. After Kobashi won and became the JBC junior featherweight champion, Ippo walked away from the hall with Kumi, who Ippo did not know was sitting next to him the entire time. Just as Ippo was about to invite Kumi for dinner, he had to stop and catch an an elderly man who was about to fall down a set of stairs. The elderly man recognised Ippo and Ippo learned the reason the former JBC junior featherweight champion relinquished his belt was to move up to the featherweight class. He then introduced Ippo to the former champion, Kazuki Sanada. Their friendly conversation was interrupted by the elderly man as they were about to shake hands, as he believed enemies should not shake hands.
At the Kamogawa gym, Ippo learned from Kamogawa that the elderly man he met earlier was named Dankichi Hama, a trainer that was supposed to be in Mexico, but went to Japan and took Sanada after watching Sanada's fifth JBC title defence. Ippo also learned about Dankichi's boxing history when he fought both Kamogawa and Nekota during the prize-fighting days. Dankichi then entered the gym and revealed that Sanada is ranked first, making him Ippo's opponent in the Champion Carnival, and warned his old rival and the champion about the Hien and the Tsubame Gaeshi. Confused as to what the "Hien" is, Ippo tried to get help from his gym mates. After an explanation on the Kawasaki Ki-61 "Hien" from Gotō, Kimura concluded that the Hien may beat both in-fighters and out-boxers. Kamogawa revealed it to be correct, and had Ippo spar with Kimura for him to see the Hien himself. Ippo witnessed Kimura's Hien in the spar, unable to stop the Hien. Ippo then got a more detailed explanation and that it seals the Dempsey Roll. Ippo then wondered what the Tsubame Gaeshi is, which Kamogawa claimed that it is a blow with Sanada's right to defeat Ippo. When Fujii entered the gym, Ippo was asked if felt the pressure of boxers training just to take him off the throne. Ippo answered that he would enter the ring as the challenger still.
When Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura found out that Sanada is a son of a hospital director, they began to wonder if Ippo could lose Kumi and the belt to the doctor boxer. Ippo claimed that Kumi is not his girlfriend so he would not lose Kumi, making the trio try to convince Ippo into calling Kumi to confess his love to her. Ippo decided to go through with it under one condition: he has to get beaten in an arm wrestling match. Gotō switches with Takamura as Ippo deemed it unfair to have Takamura partake in the challenge. When the arm wrestling match began, Ippo easily defeated Kimura and Aoki. Takamura then knocked out Gotō as he knew the same would happen to him. Ippo then arm wrestled Takamura, however Ippo lost in the end. Ippo called Kumi and asked her if she would like to do something with him that night. After she agreed, Ippo took her to the Kahuna Pasta House along with a tape recorder as Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura believed that Ippo would try to run away from his promise to them. After eating, Ippo and Kumi went into a park in the snow. Ippo attempted to confess, however he could not do it, instead telling her about his upcoming match against Sanada. Ippo then made Kumi upset and run away when he claimed that it was not her duty to cheer for him nor his right to ask her to, instead telling her to cheer for who she wants to cheer for. Ippo then returned the tape recorder to Takamura to let him hear what happen before walking out of the house emotionless.
Ippo continued training against the Hien by pushing the Hien's left with his right and then stepping in until the day of the weigh-in arrived. At the weigh-in, when asked for the champion's comment for the match, Ippo, who forgot he was the champion, wished to learn from the more experienced Sanada and to enter the ring with a challenger's standpoint. After Sanada reminded Ippo of the two previous holders of the JBC featherweight belt and how he should take more pride on it, the two shook hands. Walking away from the hall, due to Sanada's pectorals being more developed since his last match which are used for inward punches, Ippo and Kamogawa assumed that the Tsubame Gaeshi had something to do with hooks and uppercuts. When Ippo returns to the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, he was gifted new red boxing trunks with twelve stars for his twelve knock outs and shoes from Umezawa and Hiroko. That night, Ippo thought about how he will never give up the belt that the people he respected so much put on.
The next day, when the match was about to begin, Ippo walked into the ring nervously and feeling the pressure of his first title defence, as if it was his debut match. When the match began, Ippo got hit by a right straight that caused him to panic. Sanada took advantage of the situation and attacked Ippo, forcing him onto the ropes and, Ippo was attacked again until he recovered from Sanada's right. Ippo attempted to get into his rhythm and went towards Sanada, however, he was hit by Sanada, who used his Hien to change his jab into a hook. Ippo continued to have trouble getting close to Sanada due to his Hien, getting hit by the fast hitting technique until the round ended.
When the second round began, Ippo attempted to take the pace by dashing towards Sanada immediately and started his Dempsey Roll motion. The Dempsey Roll motion was stopped by Sanada, who pushed his body onto Ippo's. Ippo continued to be unable to get close to Sanada because of the Hien. He then got pushed back onto the ropes by Sanada's rapid punches, guarding against them waiting for a moment to strike back. Sanada's rhythm changed, and Ippo guarded against a right uppercut. Ippo then prepared to guard against a second right uppercut, however, the uppercut went through Ippo's stiff Peek-a-Boo style block and hit him. Realising that the double right uppercut was the Tsubame Gaeshi, Ippo retaliated and hit Sanada's guard with a right that caused damage to Sanada and made him fly back to the other side of the ring. Sanada escaped from Ippo's follow-up attack at the ropes by using his Hien and began hitting Ippo on the ropes with the Hien. With Ippo on the ropes guarding against the Hien, Sanada launched his Tsubame Gaeshi, with the second hit going through Ippo's guard again, causing Ippo to go down and become unconscious. Ippo, after hearing Kamogawa in his unconsciousness wanting him to come back to him as he knew how to beat the Tsubame Gaeshi, Ippo got up, wanting to go back to Kamogawa. The second round shortly ended after Ippo gets up. In his corner, as Ippo left for the third round, Kamogawa told him to remember what Kobashi Kenta did that gave him trouble in the match.
In the third round, not wanting to let Ippo recover, Sanada rushed towards him and used the Hien. Ippo blocked the Hien and got his guard hit by the first uppercut of the Tsubame Gaeshi. Ippo then successfully blocked the second sideways uppercut with the Cross-Arm Block, remembering that Kobashi used the Cross-Arm Block against him. With the block, Ippo advanced toward Sanada, guarding his lefts. After Ippo got into close range after getting hit by Sanada's left and right hooks in the process. Ippo hit Sanada with a liver blow and the two begin an in-fight due to Sanada being unable to escape. Ippo won the in-fight as Sanada went down. After Sanada got up, Ippo was clinched when he got close. When the clinch broke, Ippo began losing balance as Sanada punched his head during the clinch that shook his superior canal in his inner ear. When Ippo's balance came back, Ippo pushed forward against Sanada's Hien as they began to weaken. Ippo got to Sanada's chest right before the gong sounded, ending the third round.
As the fourth round began, Sanada got into an in-fighter's range and got close to Ippo while blocking and dodging punches, delivering body blows at vital points, making Ippo's face blue due to cyanosis. As Ippo began to lose balance from the body blows, Sanada used his Tsubame Gaeshi, but Ippo blocked the second uppercut by putting one of his hands between the attack and his jaw, still causing damage. As Sanada continued his attack, he noticed Ippo is at his limit and threw a right, making Ippo start to fall. Ippo barely managed to stop his fall by hanging onto the ropes. Ippo's light returned to his eyes and he released a punch that missed as the fourth round ended. Before Ippo headed out for the fifth round, he received a slap on the back by Kamogawa as a request.
Ippo dashed towards Sanada as the fifth round began and relentlessly attacked Sanada. Ippo then prepared to do his last attack as he did the Dempsey Roll motion, however, Sanada pushed his body onto Ippo's, stopping it. Ippo landed a liver blow as Sanada stepped in as he predicted Sanada would step-in to stop the motion. Ippo then hit Sanada with a Gazelle Punch. Continuing his knockout pattern he used against Sendō, Ippo used his Dempsey Roll on Sanada until Ippo ran out of energy. Ippo attempted to hit Sanada, who withstood all of Ippo's punches, however, Ippo's right barely grazed Sanada's cheek. Sanada launched a finishing right, which caused Sanada to fall down from his own momentum and missing Ippo, causing a down. The referee then signalled the end to the match, with Ippo winning his first title defence.
With the help of his seconds, Ippo walked away from the ring and went to his changing room in the hall, immediately sleeping while tightly holding his belt. Two days later, Ippo became bored as he fished with Wanpo until Kumi approached him. Kumi congratulated Ippo on his victory and explained that she came to watch the match and was alone in the crowd, cheering for Ippo.
When Ippo returned to the gym, he learned that Takamura is training for his world contender match and Kimura is sparring with Miyata for his OPBF featherweight title match against Arnie Gregory. Later, when Fujii revealed details about Gregory's "Bloody Cross" he heard from his manager, Mr. Sakaguchi, and how Gregory's destructive power is comparable to Ippo's, the gym mates believed Miyata has a chance to lose, leading Ippo to rebuke them for talking in a way that may give Miyata bad luck. Later, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall and watched as Miyata fought the OPBF champion, Gregory. the match ended in Miyata's victory, becoming the OPBF featherweight champion. Ippo realised that the gap between them is more than filled.
When Date was to fight the WBA featherweight champion Ricardo Martínez, Ippo was surprised to find out the news and was worried about Date's chances after seeing Ricardo's perfect record until he was given hope by Takamura that Date decided to challenge Ricardo again because he was confident of his victory. Ippo then learned from Kamogawa that Ricardo requested to spar with him. After Ippo agreed to the spar, Ippo discussed it with Umezawa, who compared Ippo's 13 win record to Ricardo's 63 win record and claimed that Ricardo was only five times stronger than Ippo and that Ippo would be able to land one hit out of five punches. Ippo then went with Kamogawa to the Otowa gym with the expectation of landing at least one punch within the three rounds. When Ippo arrived to the Otowa gym, he met Ricardo and felt the pressure of the super champion after going into the ring with his match boxing trunks, wanting to treat the spar as an actual match.
As the spar began, Ippo attempted to use a feint and a liver blow, however, he stopped midway as Ricardo saw through the tactic. Ippo entered his Peek-a-Boo Style and threw a one-two, which Ricardo easily dodged the first hit and threw a jab that Ippo couldn't see coming. After repeatedly getting hit with Ricardo's motionless lefts, Ippo managed to get close to Ricardo by blocking some of his punches. In range, Ippo began the Dempsey Roll motion. Before Ippo could even start to throw a punch, he was effortlessly hit repeatedly by Ricardo's lefts until the figure-eight motion stopped and left Ippo standing unconscious and frozen in shock. Noticing Ippo was unconscious, Ricardo walked away and stopped the spar. Kamogawa got Ippo, still unconscious, out of the ring and the two leave the Otowa gym with Ippo realising that the gap between him and the world was huge. Back at his home, Ippo looked into a mirror his face and was shocked on how swollen it looked after Ricardo only used his left.
When Ippo returned to the gym, he got immediately kicked out by Takamura, who told him to go see Date and apologise for his performance in the spar. When Ippo arrived outside the Nakadai gym, he looked through the window and discovered that Date was sparring with Miyata. Ippo watched the spar and was shocked to see Miyata easily beaten. Miyata walked outside and was embarrassed that the spar was seen by someone. The two then realised even though one is a Japanese champion and the other is an OPBF champion, they were still so far away and that the world is a big place.
After watching the press conference between Date and Ricardo, Ippo received a call from Takamura to go with him for roadwork. Ippo went with Takamura to a park so that they could meet Date. When they met Date, they joined him in his roadwork to discuss the press conference and his upcoming match against Ricardo. with Ippo deeming Date as incredible and wished for him to become the world champion. When the WBA title match arrived, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan to watch the match. After the semifinals which ended in Okita's victory, Ippo was approached by Fujii and was informed that Date wanted to see him in his changing room. Outside the changing room, Ippo met his wife and son, telling the latter that Date would become the world champion as he was beaten once by Date. When Ippo saw Date, Date told him that he would be waiting at the top of the world and for Ippo to not take too long. Ippo then wished for Date to win and become his eternal rival. Ippo proceeded to watch the match between Date and Ricardo, which ended in Date losing and Ricardo's 18th title defence win.
Ippo was emotional about Date's loss which sent him to the hospital, and at the Kamogawa gym, told Takamura and the others to not mention Date's possibility of retirement. Fujii entered the gym and revealed that Date was awake with no brain damage and that he is able to speak in short durations. Takamura advised for Ippo to go see him, claiming that there was a meaning to it. At the General Hospital, Ippo saw Date, who called for Ippo to take Date's hand. Date placed his hand onto Ippo's as a baton pass. Before leaving the room, Date's son, Yūji, asked Ippo if he would fight Ricardo in revenge for Date. Ippo apologised as he explained that he could not, as Ricardo was too strong, not being able to as he is now.
Ippo revealed to Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura what happened in the hospital with him and Date. As Ippo's second JBC featherweight title match against Hammer Nao was approaching, Manabu Itagaki, who recently joined the gym because he looks up to Ippo as a senpai, appeared in the Kamogawa gym. In order for the newcomer to feel the pain of being a pro, Ippo, along with the others at the gym had Itagaki do roadwork with them. When they got back to the gym, Yagi and Kamogawa showed tapes of Hammer Nao to Ippo and the others. Ippo learned that Hammer Nao went from junior welterweight to featherweight to fight him and that he was actually Naomichi Yamada, Ippo's former kōhai, who shaved his head and eyebrows. Ippo took the videos home and watched them, proud of his former kōhai's skill in his matches, while questioning why Yamada wanted to challenge him and if he can hit him. Later, while mitt training with Kamogawa, he saw Yamada's face on his mitt and pulled his punch, infuriating Kamogawa.
When Mari arrived to the gym and revealed that Yamada arrived to Tokyo, Ippo went with her outside to discuss the information she gathered. After hearing Yamada's background of him being an underdog and taking the shortest path to his dream match against his senpai, Ippo became disheartened about fighting him. Ippo eventually realised that just like him, Yamada set his goals high and he was chosen as Yamada's goal, wishing to answer Yamada with his hands. Ippo's newfound motivation led him to continue training for his second title defence without holding back. During the training, Ippo was instructed by Kamogawa that it would be a mostly close combat match and that he could not use his Dempsey Roll.
On the day of the weigh-in, Ippo met Yamada for the first time in two years. After the weight check, Yamada declined Ippo's handshake, and thanked him for teaching him about boxing and that he was giving him the belt. Ippo responded by claiming that while they practised together, he never taught him how to take the belt. Their match arrived the next day at the Kōrakuen Hall, where, in the changing room, Ippo pondered on how different Yamada looked and still kept him as his goal. Ippo then went to the ring where he intends to go full power to answer Yamada.
When the match began, Ippo, wanting to rush the fight to spare Yamada, immediately knocked Yamada down with powerful combinations thirty seconds into the fight. When Yamada got up, Ippo intended to knock him down again but was stopped with a clinch, which Ippo broke out of. After dodging many attacks, Ippo knocked Yamada down a second time. Much to Ippo's dismay, Yamada got up. Ippo got Yamada at the ropes and began attacking his guard. Ippo then blocked a body blow that sent him off his feet. With Ippo aiming punches at Yamada's head, he was hit by multiple body blows. Their exchanges ended when the referee got between them as the round ended. Ippo then witnessed Yamada hitting the rope in disappointment. In the corner, Ippo was told by Kamogawa, the three meanings to be a pro: to do any job with ease, to answer the customers demands, and to devote one's self to the fight.
In the second round, Ippo began blocking his body to prevent the body blows that happened from the last round. Just as Ippo was about to counter a right hook that missed, his guard was broken by Yamada pushing Ippo's left side of his block with his opened hand. With Ippo's body unguarded, Ippo was struck by the Solar Plexus Blow, immediately being unable to breathe and began getting hit. After recovering, Ippo was soon stopped again by getting pushed by Yamada's shoulder and getting hit with close ranged body blows. Ippo began to block his body blows until his guard was opened again by the previous tactic, leading Ippo to get hit by another solar plexus blow. With Ippo at the ropes, Ippo was unable to stop Yamada as he used the tactic a third time.
As Ippo got attacked after the third solar plexus blow, he acknowledged that Yamada had gotten strong, however, he wanted to teach him the feeling of the first loss. Ippo stopped Yamada's attack, then proceeded to open and lower his guard into the Brawling Style stance, inviting Yamada to attack. Ippo received many hits after Yamada accepted the invitation until Ippo, after many exchanges between both, landed a liver blow on Yamada, sending him down. When Yamada got up, Ippo blocked Yamada's one-two and liver blow. Ippo then successfully delivered a one-two and liver blow of his own, along with a combination of attacks that sent Yamada falling. Ippo attempted to catch Yamada's fall, however, the referee stepped in and signalled an end to the match, resulting in Ippo's second JBC title defence win. Ippo was interviewed, and he commented that he did not want the match to last long and that, while it was painful during his first loss against Date, it taught him a lot about boxing. He ended the interview claiming that he believed that Yamada will be stronger when he returns to the ring. At the changing room, Kamogawa advised for Ippo to not see Yamada, as Ippo's comments may make Yamada hold a grudge, believing that the winner has nothing to say towards the loser. Ippo's words during the interview however, made an impression on Yamada to continue boxing.
Ippo discovered that Takamura, Kimura, and Itagaki were going to a training camp at the beach, with Takamura taking Wanpo with him. Ippo got excited to go until Takamura mentioned how he was told to rest after the match. Aoki then arrived and invited Ippo to the beach with him, Tomiko, and Kumi. Ippo agreed after seeing Kumi. There, he soon ran into Takamura, Kimura, Itagaki, who were training, along with Nekota and Hachi. He then found out from Aoki that he set up a room at the hotel for him and Kumi, wanting to advance Ippo's relationship from "just friends" with her. That night, Ippo and Kumi decided to go to the beach, where Ippo tells her a scary story that brought her closer to him. Fireworks then bloomed in the sky, resulting in Ippo and Kumi's shock when they see Takamura groping Tomiko next to Aoki. When they ran back to their hotel and drank alcohol, Kumi began to talk about how she felt when she first met Ippo. Ippo then used the conversation for a chance to confess his love to her. However, Kumi fell asleep after Ippo's lengthy build up to it. Ippo, however, was satisfied that he said it at all.
The next day, Aoki misinterpreted Ippo's joy, wanting him to return the favour by helping him get revenge on Takamura by having him catch a sea slater to put in a okonomiyaki. They then went to the building being used for the training camp, where they witnessed Kimura and Itagaki sparring. Ippo then watched as Aoki's revenge ended in tears after Takamura spilt the okonomiyaki in half and shoved one down their throats. When Itagaki asked Ippo for a spar, he agreed to it, with neither holding back. During the spar, Itagaki showed his speed and skill, however, Ippo pressured him and knocked him down four times before he passed out. Then, Nekota stopped by with fireworks to use at night, with Ippo later going to the beach that night with everyone but Takamura, who decided not to go.
On the beach, with everyone enjoying fireworks and sparklers, the group noticed Takamura, who claimed would just go back, as he would just get in the way. After Ippo and Itagaki's sweet talk and everyone cheering for him, Takamura finally joined the party. After watching fireworks, Ippo looked up at the stars, setting his goal to have a firm grasp on Date's baton. Takamura's fireworks that he set earlier for revenge start going off toward the group as they ran away.
When Ippo returned to the Kamogawa gym, he was informed by Kamogawa that a sparring session was set up for him against someone who has yet to debut. The sparring partner, Kyōsuke Imai arrived, who introduced himself and expressed how he looks up to him. Ippo then got into the ring to spar against Imai. The spar lasted three rounds with Imai having no downs and was giving Ippo a hard time. It then turned out once Itagaki entered the gym that Imai was Itagaki's high school rival, with Itagaki then explaining his history with Imai to his gym mates. Takamura asked Ippo, who fought both, who would win in the pro ring, but Ippo really did not know. That night, Takamura's WBC junior middleweight title match was announced. Hearing the news, Ippo arrived to the Chūka Soba and was surprised to see everyone so down. It was then explained that the champion's manager scheduled the match for December, knowing that Takamura would not have a chance to recover in his match in October.
At the Kamogawa gym, Ippo learned that he would be having a third JBC title defence match as a semifinal for Takamura's match against champion at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan if he wins his next match. When Fujii entered the gym to give details about the champion Bryan Hawk, Ippo was shocked to find out that Hawk hates to train. Ippo arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch Itagaki, Kimura, and Takamura's matches. After Itagaki lost his debut match by Fumito Makino's fouls, Ippo went to Itagaki's changing room and explained how they were not fouls as the referee did not stop the fight and that it was Itagaki's fault. Ippo returned to Aoki at the audience seats as Kimura's final tenth round against Arman Alegria was about to begin after the previous rounds consisted of Kimura throwing large swings. Ippo then watched as Kimura won in a decision and Takamura won in a ring out victory against Morris West.
In Takamura's changing room, Hawk arrived to see Takamura. Hawk's visit eventually led Takamura to rush toward him in anger. Ippo, Aoki, and Kimura attempted to hold him back, however, they were overpowered and the punch lands on Hawk's opened hand, Hawk then left after claiming it was a handshake. Later, after being shown tapes of Hawk having two ring out victories, Aoki and Kimura got into an argument as to who would win between Takamura and Hawk until they were stopped by Ippo, who told them to believe in Takamura, reminded them that meeting Takamura was like meeting boxing itself. The three then decide to meet Takamura to ask him why he began boxing. When they arrive at his home, they instead meet Takamura's sister, Kyōka and little brother, Wataru. They were then informed from Kyōka and Wataru of Takamura's status with the family and his past.
The next day, Ippo, Aoki, and Kimura was doing roadwork with Takamura and asked him why he started boxing. Takamura answered that he did it to prove that he is the best. Itagaki then approached them to join their training after his absence. In his training for his third JBC title defence, Ippo sparred with Aoki and Itagaki. Ippo and the others became worried about Takamura's weight management and bought him bags of dried shiitake for him. After Takamura's harsh weight management, Ippo attended the press conference, where he, Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki were tasked to be on standby to stop Takamura in case the conference does not go well. When Takamura was struck in the jaw during a pose for a picture, Takamura began to rush toward Hawk. Ippo and the others hold him back, however, Kamogawa was the one to act as he grabbed Hawk by his collar in anger. Hawk then smacked Kamogawa in the face, causing Takamura to freeze in anger, however it ended without anyone getting hurt.
When his and Takamura's match arrived, Ippo met with Takamura at the changing room where he made a promise with him that if he wins by a first round knockout, Takamura has to become world champion. When Ippo's match began against Yi Yon Su, he was caught off-guard when Yi charged toward him at the start. Yi attacked aggressively with lefts that Ippo dodged. Ippo started the Dempsey Roll motion as he dodged Yi's lefts. Ippo grazed Yi's chin with a left hook. Yi then prepared to attack an incoming punch, but was countered first with a right. After Yi's body flew back after being hit, Ippo hit him with a continuous attack from the Dempsey Roll. Right as Yi tried to respond with a punch, he fell to the ground instead, resulting in Ippo's promised one round knockout. Keeping his promise to Takamura, Ippo decided to visit Takamura, who he found surrounded by multiple Japanese champions, along with Date, Sendō, Miyata, and Yoshiaki Yajima. Takamura then mentioned the promise to Ippo, telling him he would not break it. Ippo then watched as Takamura won and became the world champion.
The next week, a large package arrived at the Kamogawa gym containing a bronze bust statue of Takamura, which Aoki accidentally broke an arm off of. When Ippo heard that Aoki was sent around Japan selling mini versions of the statue for a higher price than it was, Ippo and the others decided to check on Aoki to see how any he sold. Upon arrival to Aoki's home, Tomiko answered instead, revealing that he went to Shinjuku. Ippo was then tasked to look for Aoki in Shinjuku the next day. When Ippo found Aoki at Shinjuku selling the statues, Aoki, mentally unstable about the situation became overjoyed at the sight of him. Ippo then mentioned to Aoki that the reason Takamura was acting out is because Kamogawa is not at the gym, suggesting to go to Kamogawa at Nekota's place. Ippo and Aoki went through a snow storm to get to the Pension Yoshio to tell Kamogawa to come back to the gym.
When Ippo and Aoki arrived to the Pension Yoshio to request for Kamogawa to come back to the gym due to Takamura's actions against Aoki and using his fight money to purchase statues of himself, Kamogawa decided to instead leave Takamura alone. When Ippo and Aoki asked about a picture of a woman, Kamogawa and Nekota decided to tell Ippo and Aoki of their past as prize-fighters and relations with the woman. Afterwards, Ippo, Aoki, and Kamogawa left to go back to the gym.
Ippo attended Itagaki's second match at the Kōrakuen Hall where Itagaki had his first victory in his career against Haseo Baraki. As Itagaki was thankful to Ippo for sparring against him, Itagaki invited Ippo to his home for a celebration dinner. Upon arrival at Itagaki's home, Ippo met Itagaki's sister, Nanako, who is a big fan of him, and Itagaki's mother. He then had dinner when Itagaki's father arrived. Throughout the course of the dinner, Ippo was caught off guard by the Itagaki family's plethora of bad puns and could not find time to eat, having to eat dinner at his house. Later, Ippo was surrounded by reporters at the Kamogawa gym and getting asked about his future. Ippo answered the reporters by saying that he would just take things one match at a time and just focus on his next opponent when asked who he would like to fight the most. Kamogawa and Yagi announced everyone's matches for early spring, with Ippo's fourth JBC featherweight title defence being first. That night, Ippo walked home while wondering what his goal is. He then came across Miyata, who grabbed Ippo by his collar and demanded an answer as to why he had been ignoring his match requests to the Kamogawa gym after he became the OPBF champion. With Ippo confused, Miyata walked away, expressing that he thought it was a promise.
Ippo then ran back to the Kamogawa gym, asking Kamogawa why he turned down Miyata's requests and never told him about it. Kamogawa answered that the gap between him and Miyata had reversed by a great amount, comparing their individual abilities and weapons. Ippo, however, expressed how he wants to fight Miyata while he is at his best shape, not knowing if he can continue to win. Kamogawa smacked Ippo for thinking he is at his peak and deemed a fight with Miyata a dream. Ippo then left the gym after showing his intention to get stronger in order to make Kamogawa let him fight Miyata. Ippo began planning a way to improve his Dempsey Roll by increasing the speed. Soon after, Ippo learned that his next opponent, Iwao Shimabukuro, claimed that he would destroy he Dempsey Roll in a newspaper article. Later, Ippo watched a recording of Shimabukuro winning against Keigo Okita. The recording revealed how Shimabukuro is the same type of in-fighter as Ippo and that he is shorter than him, making his usual short height advantage turn into a disadvantage. Ippo then came up with an idea to catch Shimabukuro with increased hand speed and step-in speed. He showed Kamogawa the Dempsey Roll that he had recently trained to increase his speed, however, Kamogawa was displeased with it due to the speed taking place of power. Kamogawa decided to have Ippo increase both speed and power of his Dempsey Roll with intense training.
Ippo began his intense training with Kamogawa. After completing the menu, he sparred with Aoki, and could barely do anything against him. He later was visited by Shimabukuro at his home and was requested to show him the ocean. Ippo then showed him the Tokyo Bay, however, Shimabukuro was not pleased with the state of the polluted ocean, removing Ippo's title of "man of the sea". However, when Hiroko arrived, Shimabukuro recognised her by smell as a woman of the sea and deemed Ippo a man of the sea once again. Ippo was then puzzled by Shimabukuro's departing words as he claimed that he would take Ippo to the bottom of the sea in the fight. With Ippo at peak exhaustion, Kamogawa ordered him to not do anything or come to the gym for a week, suggesting to soak in the water if he needed to do something. Ippo took his advice and went to the Swimming Club. While there, he was watched by Kumi to make sure he didn't do anything taxing on his body. Itagaki and Nanako also visited him there, with Ippo expressing his unwavering trust in Kamogawa to Itagaki about the meaning of Shimabukuro's "bottom of the sea" line. Ippo also learned that he can stay underwater for longer than he used to thanks to the training.
After a week of recovery, Ippo returned to the Kamogawa gym and immediately commenced a mitt-practice session with Kamogawa. During the session, Ippo landed a punch on a mitt that created a cracking sound, which sent Kamogawa down on the canvas. Ippo asked his gym mates if they heard the sound, but it turned out that only he heard it. Kamogawa was taken to his office by Takamura, and Shinoda then continued the session with Ippo, who tried to figure out how he did it, but to no avail. Afterwards he noticed that he can punch while holding his breath for much longer. Later while talking to Umezawa, he expressed how he sees the fight as the least complicated but most difficult, and wished to have a good match where he can use his strength. Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall for his weigh-in. After Shimabukuro passed, Ippo accidentally took all his clothes off for his weight check, which surprised everyone. After Shimabukuro commented on Ippo's "python", they shook hands with both aiming to win. The next day, Ippo arrived back to the hall for his match against Shimabukuro. In his changing room, instead of warming up by punching, Ippo remained calm while sitting and closing his eyes. When it was time for his match, Ippo arrived to the ring and the match began.
Ippo entered into his Peek-a-Boo Style stance and quickly realised his usual tactic of pushing into his opponent's chest is sealed as Shimabukuro is shorter and has a lower stance than him. Ippo chose to do what he hates being done to him and hit Shimabukuro with his reach advantage. Shimabukuro manages to get to Ippo's chest and they both failed an attempt to hit each other, however, their arms crossed and Shimabukuro lifted Ippo up off his feet with pure strength. Shimabukuro then pressured Ippo into a corner while dodging his left jabs. They have an in-fight at the corner and Ippo began to have trouble due to the punches coming from below. Shimabukuro sent out a Gazelle Punch in amidst of the in-fight, blowing away Ippo's Cross-Arm Block. Ippo switched to only blocking until his block began to weaken, deciding to push into Shimabukuro, shoving his head up to create an opening to punch. The two then enter a hitting match too close to dodge, shifting their weight enough to throw punches with power until the first round ended.
Ippo and Shimabukuro had a continuous close ranged hitting match up to the fifth round, going accordingly to Shimabukuro's plan as Ippo has difficulty breathing and his face turned purple from cyanosis. Ippo blocked his face, thinking Shimabukuro will aim to finish the match, however, Shimabukuro aimed for Ippo's body. Ippo was hit many times by the body blows and unable to defend himself or catch his breath until the fifth round ended. Thanks to his experience with cyanosis against Sanada, Ippo took deep breaths and planed to gather enough strength to use the Dempsey Roll.
In the sixth round, Ippo set himself up to the distance required to use the Dempsey Roll. Doing the Dempsey Roll's motion, Ippo began to hit Shimabukuro, however, he was hit as well in an exchange. Ippo and Shimabukuro continued exchanging punches, with Ippo using the Dempsey Roll, until the technique's motion stopped and turned into a mere hook, resulting in Shimabukuro successfully defeating the Dempsey Roll. Ippo hung onto the ropes in despair of having the Dempsey Roll beaten. Despite Ippo being open for attacks, Shimabukuro could not move at all due to the amount of damage he took to defeat the Dempsey Roll and his face was purple with cyanosis, making both boxers being at the bottom of the sea. When the sixth round ended, Kamogawa instructed Ippo to take deep breaths gather his oxygen from his cells in order to last another three minutes. When both boxers got out of their corners, Ippo became relaxed as he smiled at Shimabukuro.
In the seventh round, Ippo, after throwing a weak punch, immediately got pushed to the ropes and proceeded to guard against a barrage. Shimabukuro launched a Gazelle Punch in an attempt to break Ippo's guard, however, Ippo placed his right hand over his jaw to avoid a direct hit. Ippo, following Kamogawa's previous orders, held his power back while using one-twos. Shimabukuro sent out another Gazelle Punch, this time with more power, which Ippo blocked with a Cross-Arm Block. Ippo attacked Shimabukuro while imagining himself hitting Kamogawa's mitts and blocking his punches. When ippo lost his balance from his own momentum, he gathered enough strength to throw another punch, which Shimabukuro decided to take as Ippo's punches have weakened, planning to counter afterwards. Ippo landed the punch and heard the same sound he heard at the gym when he knocked Kamogawa down while mitt-practising. Shimabukuro lost his balance from the seemingly weak punch. Shimabukuro regained his balance as Ippo motioned his Dempsey Roll. Ippo used the Dempsey Roll and exchanged blows with Shimabukuro until Ippo sent him down with a full-body Dempsey Roll blow. While Shimabukuro took a fighting pose, he was unable to stand up before the count of ten, resulting in Ippo's victory, defending his JBC title a fourth time. After wearing his belt and doing a victory pose, Ippo passed out and was carried to the changing room by Kamogawa.
In the changing room, Ippo woke up and wished to thank his mother for telling him long ago that his father would imagine his opponent's face as a fish, which was why he smiled in the seventh round. While walking to the shower room, Ippo came across Shimabukuro, who revealed his plans to leave for Okinawa the next day and that he was retiring to protect the reefs from the impending customers as summer was about to begin. Shimabukuro left after telling Ippo that he should live by the ring and if he ever goes to Okinawa, to give him a call for a swimming contest. Later while resting, Nanako, Kumi, and Mari visited him and were arguing until Hiroko stopped them. When he woke up, Ippo was informed by Umezawa that a fight happened while he was asleep which ended in a draw.
After Ippo recovered from his match against Shimabukuro, he returned to the Kamogawa gym and was shocked to see Aoki botch his weight management and became a bantamweight. He then went to the gym's office and revealed to Kamogawa and Yagi that he noticed the Dempsey Roll's weakness to counters during the match and realised that this was the reason for Kamogawa turning down Miyata's requests. He then told them that he also realised that they would always support him. Later after Aoki regained his weight, he asked Ippo how it felt to first hold the belt. Ippo answered that it felt accomplished, like everything that he had done meant something. When Ippo saw the lightweight champion, Imae Katsutaka claim he would "crush the frog" in a headline on a newspaper, he noted how similar it was to how Shimabukuro wanted to destroy the Dempsey Roll in a headline. Thinking that Aoki may not be able to use his Frog Punch, Ippo and his other gym mates try to help Aoki learn a technique he can mix with the Frog Punch, however, they stopped when Aoki ran away as he thought he was being made fun of.
After the weigh-in for Itagaki and Aoki, Ippo went with Kimura and Itagaki outside the Kōrakuen Hall where they notice Imae and his girlfriend talking. They then witness Imae being rude to her, resulting in her crying and running away. The next day, Ippo watched Itagaki's first match of his East Japan Rookie King Tournament, which ended in Itagaki's victory. Ippo then watched Aoki's title match against Imae. Ippo, like the rest of the audience, was tricked by Aoki's Look Away, but Ippo was in a higher seating area and saw him use the Frog Punch after doing the Look Away. The match ended after the ten round were over and the decision resulted in a draw, making Imae keep the belt and Aoki losing. After the match, Takamura made rude remarks about the match. Ippo, Itagaki, and Kimura had Takamura go to Aoki's house to apologise, as they believe it would be his fault if he retires. When they got there, they overheard Aoki and Tomiko talking about how he would become champion the next time he tries. The group then left, as Aoki seemed busy and they figured he was not retiring.
As Aoki has been away from the gym for a week, Ippo and the others begin to think he is retiring. When Yagi informed Ippo that he has a visitor, he was surprised to see Kenta Kobashi. Kobashi revealed that he has retired and became a trainer after getting the belt, not even defending his JBC junior featherweight title once. Ippo learned from him that everyone who attended their East Japan Rookie King tournament besides Mashiba, Sendō, and Miyata had retired. Kobashi asked Ippo why he started boxing, which Ippo answered that he wanted to know what it means to be strong, however, he still has not found the answer. Kobashi then left, expressing how he would keep watching Ippo to see how far he has to go to be satisfied. When Ippo returned to the gym, Aoki arrived and introduced the two people who made him decide not to retire: Isamu Akamatsu and Hiroshi Kizakura. Ippo was in disbelief when the Aoki team refused to do what Takamura asked, as they only listen to Aoki.
Later, Ippo went to Osaka to see Sendō's comeback match at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. Ippo watched as Sendō won by a one round knockout and excitedly went to his changing room to congratulate him. When Ippo entered, Sendō was arguing with Ryūhei Sawamura, who Ippo recognised as the JBC third ranker in the featherweights. Ippo went to greet Sawamura, however the third ranker denied a handshake from the champion and walked away after suggesting for Ippo not to use the Dempsey Roll, as Sawamura saw it as a clumsy technique that will fall apart. Sendō noted by experience that Sawamura can back up his words, and warned Ippo that he is a counter puncher, along with being the Dempsey Roll's natural enemy. Outside the building, Sendō told Ippo how Sawamura may have the potential to surpass Miyata, suggesting to train with someone able to counter the Dempsey Roll.
Later, Ippo went to Takamura's press conference for his first WBC junior middleweight title defence match against Larry Bernard. There, Takamura announced that he would relinquish the junior middleweight belt to move up a weight class in his conquest to conquer six weight classes from junior middleweight to heavyweight. To prove it, he claimed he would not get hit once against Bernard. The next day, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan and was worried about Takamura's claim of not getting hit. Takamura however, revealed that he had a plan. Ippo then watched the match, where Takamura did Aoki's Look Away and then turned his body for a full body Look Away. However, it did not fool Bernard as he was able to hit Takamura during the action. Despite breaking his no-hit promise, Takamura won. In the changing room, Ippo told Itagaki that Takamura probably would have taken no hits if he fought properly and how he is like a superhuman after fighting a world title fight without a sweat.
Later, Ippo went to Kamogawa's office where he is called a "cheese champion" by Kamogawa, because Ippo has many holes like swiss cheese as he still has many challengers despite beating the first ranker. Ippo was then handed names of four challengers to pick from. He decided to pick Sawamura, and explained to Kamogawa and Yagi that he had already met Sawamura and that he called the Dempsey Roll "clumsy". That night, Ippo went home and watched Sawamura's match video in shock as Sawamura won against a tired Shimabukuro by a decision after four rounds. Ippo went to Takamura's house to show his gym mates that video and another video where he purposely committed a foul. After watching the videos, Fujii entered the room and revealed details about Sawamura. Ippo was disgusted to learn that Sawamura beats people on the streets despite being a professional boxer and refuses to recognise Sawamura as a boxer nor his way of boxing as boxing.
The next day, Kamogawa informed Ippo that he would give Sawamura's gym his reply to accept the match. Takamura asked Ippo what he will do about the Dempsey Roll's weakness to counters. Ippo planned on using the technique on Sawamura to beat him, and to make the Dempsey Roll not lose to modern boxing. Ippo then announced to his gym mates that he would evolve the Dempsey Roll, though he does not know how. He asked for Kimura and Itagaki's help as they are both out-boxers and counter users like Sawamura. Kimura attempted to spar with Ippo to counter the Dempsey Roll, however, the fear of the Dempsey Roll did not let him. With Itagaki also not wanting to do it for the same reason, Takamura advised 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.
Kamogawa noticed Ippo being worried about evolving the Dempsey Roll, and has him think what to do about it while having him run and dragging a vehicle tire on a rope, informing Ippo that if he found a way to evolve the technique, it would require a strong lower body to pull it off. While doing roadwork, Ippo was surprised when he passed by Volg, who went from Russia to Japan looking for Ippo. Volg revealed that he is planning on making a comeback in the United States of America, requesting for Ippo to give him back his gloves he gave him when he left Japan. Ippo let him know that he has them, but when he learned that Volg slept under a bridge for two nights, he offered Volg to stay at his house until he leaves Japan. Ippo then took Volg to his home where he shows him tape recordings of some of his matches. Volg was amazed of the Dempsey Roll and mentioned that he would aim for a counter if he were to face it. This made Ippo realise that Volg may be the one to help him against Sawamura. After dinner, Ippo asked Volg if he could spar with him, however, Volg declined, as he felt he would be of no help to him due to his absence from boxing.
While working at the fishing boat and training with Volg at the gym, Ippo later discovered that Volg left after watching tapes of Sawamura's matches. When Umezawa asked what will happen with Volg, Ippo answered that Kamogawa had contacted Dankichi Hama to Volg in America. On the day before Volg leaves for America, Volg asked Ippo to spar with him, wanting to show him the Dempsey Roll counter. The next day, Ippo got into the ring at the Kamogawa gym and began to spar with Volg. After Ippo and Volg had a serious fight for two rounds, Ippo started his Dempsey Roll in the final third round. As Ippo hit Volg's block multiple times, Volg stepped back and Ippo was struck with a right counter to the face as he was preparing to hit Volg, making him pass out on the canvas. Ippo later woke up, however, Volg had already left for America.
The next day, Ippo began to think that winning against Sawamura would be impossible for him. While talking with Kamogawa, he learned that he passed out to Volg's punch even though Volg was holding back, making Kamogawa worry that Ippo may not wake up from Sawamura hitting him with the counter in a worse case scenario. Despite this, Ippo was confident that he would figure out what to do and come up with a strategy. While running, Ippo came up with a way to evolve the Dempsey Roll by changing the rhythm after realising that counter users are able to hit the Dempsey Roll because the rhythm is easy to read. Ippo tried changing the rhythm of the motion, however, he was unable to do it due to the strain it puts on his legs and waist, noticing that Kamogawa made him drag tires in order to train his lower body. While testing his new Dempsey Roll in the Kamogawa gym's ring, he fell down and unable to get up. Kamogawa had Tomoko Yamaguchi come to do an emergency checkup. Yamaguchi revealed that his knees and waist had too much strain put on them, and any more would be dangerous and could end his boxing career should he injure them. When Yamaguchi warned Ippo to only do the new Dempsey Roll twice in the match, Ippo was determined to do it more than that, as he does not want to lose the match.
On the day before the weigh-in, Ippo and Umezawa talked about his upcoming match, with Ippo expressing how he dislikes Sawamura ignoring the rules of boxing despite being strong. Walking away, Ippo planned on forgetting about the limits Yamaguchi mentioned, using the new Dempsey Roll as many times as it takes, even if it means never arriving at the promised place with Miyata. On the day of the weigh-in, Ippo arrived at the Kōrakuen Hall's weigh-in. Ippo was frustrated when Sawamura wanted to fight him in the weigh-in room, reminding Sawamura that they would fight the next day, wanting to fight fair and by the rules in the ring. Ippo then left to go meet Kumi outside. On the way there, he was stopped by Sawamura's teacher, who pleaded for Ippo to take down Sawamura, which Ippo agreed to.
Outside the Kōrakuen Hall Ippo met up with Kumi and Mashiba, who Ippo was not so thrilled to see. While walking towards a amusement park, Mashiba saw a parked motorcycle and wanted to ride it. Kumi got between Mashiba and the motorcycle to stop him. It turned out that it was Sawamura's motorcycle when Sawamura arrived and attacked Kumi, leaving a scratch on her face. Ippo was angered that Sawamura would hit a woman despite being a boxer. Ippo then stopped Mashiba from attacking Sawamura, telling him that he will fight him the next day. As Sawamura leaves, Ippo asked Kumi to come watch him fight, as it would help encourage him.
The next day, Ippo went the Kōrakuen Hall for his title defence against Sawamura. Umezawa visited him in the waiting room to tell Ippo a Russian good luck charm he was taught by Volg. When their match arrived, Ippo and Sawamura got into the ring, and, after Sawamura lunged at Ippo to try to start before the gong could ring, the match began. Ippo attacked Sawamura, who could only block the many attacks. When Ippo managed to get Sawamura to the ropes and blow his block away, Sawamura tripped Ippo, making him fall. While Ippo was still down, he was shocked as Sawamura throws a punch at him, nicking his face. Ippo got up and proceeded to attack Sawamura's guard. Ippo dodged Sawamura's counters and landed a liver blow at the corner. Ippo blocked Sawamura from escaping the corner and when Sawamura tried to clinch, Ippo broken out of it after hitting him. Ippo dodged Sawamura's punches until the first round ended.
In the second round, Sawamura held out his hand as a greeting, but when Ippo held his out, Sawamura knocked it away and threw a punch, which Ippo dodged. Just as Sawamura began to read Ippo's hand speed, Ippo upped his step-in speed and sends Sawamura down with a right to the face. When Sawamura got up, Ippo got Sawamura to the ropes with hits to Sawamura's body and guard. Sawamura clinched and made Ippo fall down with him. When they both got up, because Sawamura purposely loosened his glove tape, the referee paused the match to let Sawamura's second fix it. When the match continued, Ippo became alert as Sawamura changed his stance to an unorthodox one with his left hand extending out. Ippo attempted to get close to Sawamura, however, he was unable to succeed due to the fast jabs called the "Bullet". The second round then ended.
In the third round, Ippo used a Cross-Arm Block to counter Sawamura's Bullet. When Ippo got close enough to attack, he was hit by Sawamura's Flash, which almost caused Ippo to fall. After getting hit multiple times with the Bullet, Ippo steps into his range where he gets hit again with the Flash. Leaning on Sawamura after the hit, the third round ended. At the corner, Ippo was explained of Sawamura's tactics to make Ippo lose his cool by fouling, which made Ippo throw larger punches for Sawamura to easily counter.
Ippo decided to go back to the basics in the fourth round by weaving to dodge Sawamura's Bullets. After dodging most of the Bullets, Ippo threw an uppercut that misses Sawamura, who also missed his Flash. However, Ippo immediately hit Sawamura with a liver blow and attempted to hit his face, but gets countered instead with the Flash. When Sawamura retreated back, Ippo dodged the Bullets and got close to Sawamura. After Ippo was unable to land two body blows, he feinted a high blow and was able to hit Sawamura with a liver blow. Distance between the two grew after Ippo was hit with the Flash. Ippo dodged the Bullets and hit Sawamura's guard at the ropes with multiple hooks. When Ippo broke Sawamura's guard, he dodged his Bullets by using the Dempsey Roll's motion. Just as Ippo began to attack with the Dempsey Roll, stepped back and countered with a left. Ippo prevented himself from falling by hanging onto the ropes, devastated that his technique was defeated for a second time, and this time only he was damaged. Ippo made a failed attempt to hit Sawamura with a right, falling over from his own momentum and leaned on him as the fourth round ended. At the corner, Ippo expressed how he does not want to lose, as if he does, every boxer in Japan would look like a fool.
In the fifth round, Ippo was unable to land a hit as he was hit himself multiple times until the end of the fifth round. Ippo then went for a Dempsey Roll in the sixth round, however, he was countered with a Flash. Thanks to Volg previously hitting him with a right counter and everyone's help before the match, Ippo managed to stay standing. He was then hit with Bullets, and, when Ippo fought back, Sawamura elbowed his back. After Sawamura received a penalty, Ippo soon followed up with another Dempsey Roll. When Sawamura got ready to counter with his right, Ippo stopped the Dempsey Roll mid-motion. With Sawamura unable to stop himself from throwing a punch that misses, Ippo resumed the motion and landed the counter's counter, knocking Sawamura down. When Sawamura got back up, Ippo attacked him until he hid behind the referee as the sixth round ended.
In the seventh round, Ippo repeatedly attacked Sawamura, who attempted to foul and trip Ippo, however, he dodged Sawamura's foot. Ippo then began the Dempsey Roll motion and stopped the motion when Sawamura was getting ready to throw a counter. Sawamura, however also stopped, but Ippo dodged the counter and stopped another Dempsey Roll motion, confusing Sawamura. Ippo then landed a hit on Sawamura and continued hitting him with the Dempsey Roll until he fell. The referee ended the match without a count, resulting in Ippo making a victory pose before acknowledging how Sawamura was strong as he successfully defended his JBC featherweight title for the fifth time.
While walking down the stairs to get out of the ring, Ippo fell, and was carried by Takamura to the changing room where Yamaguchi was waiting. She revealed that while Ippo's muscle fibres tore, blood vessels burst, and ligaments were somewhat hyper extended, there were no injuries that would affect his boxing career, much to Ippo's relief. His gym mates then had Kumi walk him home. Along the way, Kumi asked Ippo why he started boxing. He answered that he wanted to become strong, but while he has physical strength, he still does not know what it means, and is unable to catch up, as the certain person's power is not only physical strength, but the strength to live. When Ippo arrived to his home, he immediately passed out and was taken to his bed.
After Ippo had no problems in his brain check-up, he went to Yamaguchi, where he was given a crutch for his hurt knee and was told to not exercise nor rely on his Dempsey Roll due to the stress it puts on his body. While walking home, he was picked up by Umezawa in a vehicle. Along the way, Umezawa showed his intention of leaving the fishing boat business and focus on being a mangaka. Ippo encouraged him to fulfil his dreams. As Umezawa previously promised, he let Ippo read his finished fishing manga. Since he is bad at giving opinions, he invited Itagaki to read with him, however, Itagaki also brought Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura as well. Takamura ended up accidentally ripping some pages as the group fought over reading it, making Ippo angry as the group ran off. With Umezawa happy that they fought over trying to read his manga, he decided to go forward with his dream. Ippo then went to Umezawa's home to help fix the manga, thankful how much Umezawa previously helped him. Back at his home, Ippo and Hiroko invited Umezawa for dinner before he left, and when Umezawa tried to confess to Hiroko what he did to Ippo in high school and was worried about his and Ippo's relationship, Ippo stopped him and told him not to worry. When Umezawa was walking away from Ippo's home, Ippo decided to tell him that they are best friends on top of any other title as he waved goodbye.
When Ippo returned to the Kamogawa gym, Kamogawa immediately discussed the plans for his next title defence. He revealed that the previous challengers that issued a challenge before has taken back their challenge request after Ippo's victory over Sawamura. Ippo was advised to focus on recovering for the time being. Ippo went home and discovered that Itagaki and Nanako has been hired in Umezawa's place to help with the fishing boat company, Ippo then watched Itagaki win the second round of his East Japan Rookie King Tournament.
Later, Ippo was reminded by Itagaki about the WBA featherweight Ricardo Martínez's 21st title defence match that was airing on TV. Ippo rushed to his house to watch it, where Ricardo quickly won. Ippo explained to Itagaki how big the gap between him and Ricardo is and even with the new Dempsey Roll, the world is still far away, as the technique still would not work on Miyata.
The Kamogawa gym held a party at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat by hosting a fishing competition. Ippo and Itagaki were in charge steering the boat as the Kamogawa gym boxers and staff competed in catching fish for dinner. After the competition, Ippo went to eat dinner that Hiroko cooked with everyone. With everyone gathered, Kamogawa revealed that Takamura would challenge the WBC title for the middleweights, Aoki and Kimura have matches, Miyata has an OPBF title defence match before Takamura's title match, Itagaki continues his East Japan Rookie King Tournament, and Ippo is instructed to continue his recovery.
At the Kamogawa gym, Ippo was ordered to spar with Imai. After Imai had a brief argument with Itagaki and Ippo noticed Miyata was watching, the spar began. Ippo quickly realised that Imai has become stronger than the last time they sparred, as he loses dual exchanges and could only block Imai's fast punches. After two rounds of the one-sided spar, Ippo became depressed for failing to push Imai to help Itagaki.
After watching the WBC middleweight champion David Eagle's match on video, Ippo got a call from Miyata, who was in a training camp with Takamura. Miyata informed Ippo what has been happening during the training camp and mentioned his suspicions about Takamura, asking Ippo if he noticed if Takamura had been acting strangely. Ippo answered how he had not noticed anything. After getting off the phone, however, Ippo remembered how Miyata said that Takamura called his punches a "mosquito bite" and that Takamura previously said that a mosquito kept him awake one night, drawing a conclusion that Takamura may have something wrong with him.
To make sure he is right, Ippo met with Kumi so that he could read a book from her hospital about eye problems. Ippo discovered that the "mosquito" that Takamura claimed to see might be myodesopsia, which is known to be an early symptom of idiopathic retinal detachment, which if not treated, can lead to blindness. Connecting the dots by remembering how Takamura mentioned his eye hurting after his match with Hawk, and Itagaki noting that Takamura may be rushing giving up the junior middleweight belt, Ippo became worried about Takamura's eye. He then went to Sanada to ask for his advice for eye problems, but for Takamura's sake, he did not tell Sanada who the advice was for. They go inside the Imperial College of Medicine, where Sanada details the process and dangers of the retinal detachment. After the explanation, Ippo acknowledged that he has to take full responsibility to take his right to enter the ring away from Takamura for his safety if he does have retinal detachment. Ippo decided to go to Takamura's house to ask him if he can see out of his right eye. After Takamura claimed to be able to see out of it and Ippo tested him by having him read out words from a magazine with only his right eye, Ippo was relieved that his suspicions were false.
When Takamura was challenging Yagi in a fishing match, Ippo, Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki went to the Fishing Hole Paradise to cheer for Takamura. When they got there, however, the two fishers had left and the group noticed that there was a sign that permitted Takamura and Yagi from entering the fishing hole. They rush back to the gym and were shocked to learn that the fishing match ended in a draw. Ippo later watched Itagaki win the quarter-finals of the East Japan Rookie King Tournament. Ippo encouraged Itagaki afterwards to become the Rookie King after two more matches.
The champion David Eagle arrived to Japan and hosted a public sparring session at the Kawahara gym. Ippo went with Kamogawa and Yagi there to gather information for Takamura, though, Kamogawa assumed that he went along to see Miyata. There, Eagle was hosting an autograph session, which Ippo went over and received an autograph. Ippo saw Miyata, who explained the reasoning as to why Eagle was doing autographs, with him also having one. Ippo then watched Eagle's public spar and was amazed of his boxing. After the sparring session, Ippo learned from Miyata that he has something new and that during his fight in the semi-finals, he would show how he stepped up to the challenge just as Ippo did during the Sawamura match. Walking back to the Kamogawa gym, Ippo mentioned to Kamogawa how Eagle seemed like a hero. After seeing Takamura outside the Kamogawa gym hitting children who asked for an autograph, Ippo deemed Takamura to be pure evil.
The day before the event, Ippo went to the Yokohama Arena and attended Takamura and Eagle's weigh-in, along with Aoki and Kimura's weigh-in with Papaya Dachiu and Eleki Battery respectfully. The next day, Ippo went to the Yokohama Arena and met coaches Date and Okita, who's boxer got defeated. Ippo then went to encourage Aoki and Kimura before their matches, telling the two that he was also nervous when he was the semi-final for Takamura's match against Hawk, but he just did what he did as always. Ippo watched Aoki and Kimura's matches, which both ended in a draw, and then Miyata's fourth OPBF title defence match against Medgoen Dachboy, which ended in Miyata's victory.
After Miyata's victory, Ippo got the crowd riled up when he mentioned fighting Miyata for the title, making the crowd do a Makunouchi chant, which made Ippo run away from the pressure and went to Takamura's waiting room. As Takamura left for the title match, Ippo headed to the audience area and came across Miyata, who wanted a confirmation about Takamura's eye. Ippo informed Miyata that Takamura claimed to be able to see and that he was able to read a small print on a magazine, however, Miyata assumed that Takamura memorised the magazine beforehand, making Ippo's test irrelevant. Ippo then watched Takamura's WBC middleweight title match. Despite getting his right eye cut and the match almost stopped because of it, Takamura won, conquering his second weight class. Outside the arena, Ippo waited with his friends for Takamura to come out and take him home, as he was instructed by Kamogawa to force Takamura to rest. Ippo and everyone else was then thrown out by Takamura as he was unable to rest with everyone watching him.
When Ippo went to the Kamogawa gym, he witnessed Takamura go through with an earlier promise by cutting Aoki's hair into Papaya's since he did not win. Back at his house, when Ippo and Itagaki watched a commercial featuring Takamura, Ippo mentioned how despite Takamura's eccentric nature, they train with an inedible person. He was then shocked to see Aoki having a commercial as "Broccoman", influenced by his new haircut. Later, Ippo was worried about Itagaki being nervous about the East Japan Rookie King Tournament, which Kimura suggested to him that it has to do with the match against Imai being close. Ippo discovered the reason for Itagaki's nervousness when he went to the Kōrakuen Hall with him and watched the match to see who Itagaki would fight next, with Makino defeating his opponent with Flicker Jabs. Walking away from the building, Ippo, Itagaki, and Nanako were approached by Makino. After Imai also arrived and tensions rose, Ippo stepped in to diffuse the situation. Makino recognised Ippo as the champion, and stepped on his foot as he walked away warning Ippo that he won't be able to ignore him.
Later, Ippo, Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura bet on who would win the East Japan Rookie King Tournament, with Ippo betting on Itagaki to win. Ippo rushed to Itagaki's house after hearing from Nanako that he was hurt badly after sparring with Mashiba. Seeing Itagaki's face swollen, Ippo told him to not to worry about working at the fishing boat the next day and warned to not try sparring with Mashiba again, however, Itagaki informed him that he got results from the spar. Ippo told Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura about Itagaki's spar with Mashiba, and was frustrated when his gym mates were more worried about their bets on Imai and Makino. Ippo went to meet up with Kumi to spy on Mashiba after she assumed he was going clothes shopping with his "girlfriend". It turned out the person he was going shopping with was Itagaki. Ippo and Kumi followed them anyway into the Hirosue afterwards. There, they eavesdropped on their conversation, which Ippo heard Itagaki claim that Ippo destroyed his confidence, wishing that he would tell him that he looks like a pro.
On the day of the semi-finals for the East Japan Rookie King Tournament, Ippo cheered for Itagaki as he went up against Makino. Ippo was amazed when Itagaki dodged and blocked Makino's fouls, and felt that Itagaki looked like splendid pro when Itagaki won. Ippo headed to Itagaki's waiting room to tell him how he looked like a pro, however, Kamogawa stopped him, forbidding Ippo from ever saying those words if he wants to see Itagaki continue to grow. Ippo went back and watched Imai's match against Makoto Terai, who Imai defeated. Ippo waited outside the building to congratulate Itagaki for his victory.
Later, Ippo was informed by Kamogawa about a request from his possible sixth JBC featherweight title defence opponent. In a month he would face the seventh ranker Takuzō Karasawa, who Ippo was told to have a Dempsey Roll counter plan. Ippo wished to accept the request despite the little time to prepare, as he wanted to start all over and try something.
Since Ippo was willing to fight Karasawa as his sixth opponent for his JBC featherweight title defence match, Kamogawa accepted the request. Ippo began training by hitting tree logs, which he bought from his prize money, into a hillside using a hammer in order to build his body for more powerful sideways twisting motions. Due to only having a month to train, Ippo did harsh training with Kamogawa. During the training, Kamogawa asked Ippo if he felt okay, as Yamaguchi claimed that there could be hidden damage from his fight against Sawamura. Ippo answered that he felt fine, but noted how a long fight may reaggravate his injuries during the match. Later, Ippo watched recordings of Karasawa's matches with Kamogawa, which showcased Karasawa using footwork. Ippo concluded that he should use body blows on the out-boxer.
When Ippo returned to the spot to do more log training, a sign was posted into the ground, pleading for no more logs to be pushed into the hillside. Running with Itagaki, Ippo explained how he wanted to go back to the basics, as he felt that he would one day run into someone he won't be able to beat if he kept going the same as always. He also felt that he has relied on the Dempsey Roll too much, no longer wanting to use it recklessly as the technique continues to get studied by his opponents. Ippo returned to his home and was informed by Hiroko that Takamura, who had been away on a trip for a while, has tried to contact him to tell him that he was doing fine, assuming Ippo was worrying. Ippo later got a call from Takamura, who began to tell his adventures to Ippo, however, Takamura hung up before he could start. Three days later, Ippo discussed Takamura's sudden hang up with him with his gym mates. While Ippo was worried, his gym mates predicted that Takamura would show up at the gym soon.
On the day of the weigh-in, Ippo saw Karasawa and his second, Sanada. The next day, Ippo felt uneasy about his title defence until he was approached by Takamura, who had just returned to Tokyo. Takamura's presence gave Ippo what he was lacking as Ippo exclaimed that he would smash Karasawa into little pieces. After a meal with Takamura and Itagaki, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall that night for his sixth title defence match against Karasawa. Ippo and Karasawa arrived to the ring when their match arrived. Ippo was then instructed to aim for Karasawa's body and use lefts as the match soon began.
Ippo trapped Karasawa into the corner early into the first round after not being bothered by his out-boxing hit-and-run tactic, hitting Karasawa with a liver blow. Karasawa escaped the corner and clinched Ippo when he got close. Ippo attempted to land a hit while clinched, however Karasawa was warned by Sanada to jump back, dodging Ippo's uppercut. Ippo however landed a left straight that made Karasawa have to hold onto the ropes. After Ippo threw combinations at Karasawa, he was clinched and pulled to the canvas with Karasawa. The first ending shortly after, and, in the corner, Ippo was instructed to keep throwing basic punches.
As the second round began, Karasawa circled around Ippo while throwing lefts as Ippo slowly approached him, distorting Karasawa's circular path, until Ippo put Karasawa into the corner. Ippo then tricked Karasawa by using the Dempsey Roll motion and then hitting with a liver blow from below. Ippo proceeded to force Karasawa to stay in the corner by throw small precise punches on his block. When Ippo broke his guard, he hit Karasawa with a powerful body blow. Karasawa tried to switch positions by throwing a left hook, however, Ippo landed a left over Karasawa's hook, knocking him down. The referee immediately ended the match, resulting in Ippo's sixth title defence win. When Ippo left the Kōrakuen Hall, Takamura asked Ippo why he sealed the Dempsey Roll. Ippo explained how he saw that the Dempsey Roll was shortening his career, and he wanted to perfect the basics of all punches.
Ippo watched Volg's match against the IBF fourth ranker, Eric Thompson on TV, amazed of Volg's abilities as he won. Ippo learned from Itagaki that his ranking in the WBC was twelve, however, Ippo explained that a world title match was beyond him. With Itagaki worried about his upcoming match against Imai and how everyone thinks Imai will win, Ippo helped raise his spirits by telling him what he was taught from Kamogawa to believe in himself. When Kumi arrived to congratulate Ippo on his recent victory, Itagaki revealed to them of Imai's request to introduce Nanako to him if he wins, which Ippo realised he would never be able to challenge Mashiba for Kumi.
Ippo and Itagaki went to Umezawa's home to congratulate him after discovering that his fishing manga has won a reward. Before leaving, Ippo told Umezawa how he was worried about Itagaki facing Imai and felt that he could not tell Itagaki about what gave him trouble before as Umezawa suggested.
Later, Ippo sparred with Itagaki in his last spar before his fight against Imai. Ippo was immediately caught off guard by Itagaki's improved speed and his porcupine-like punches, however, Ippo could read his punches. The spar ended without a knockout, and Ippo claimed that Itagaki was well prepared. Afterwards, Ippo went to the rooftop, where Takamura suggested for him to tell Itagaki the truth that he would lose by knockout to Imai if he does not change his strategy. Itagaki overheard part of the conversation and questioned Ippo. Takamura ended up telling Itagaki, and Ippo added that he believed that Itagaki should enter an in-fight with Imai to throw off his rhythm as it troubles Ippo when it is done to him.
When Itagaki's match against Imai arrived, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall and watched the match. After the fifth round, Itagaki became unconscious while sitting down at the corner. As the referee was about to end the match because of it, Ippo arrived at the corner, which made Itagaki come back to his senses and let the match continue. After the six rounds, Ippo cheered as Itagaki won in a decision, becoming the East Japan Rookie King. In the locker room, Itagaki thanked Ippo for encouraging him to continue. As Ippo watched the Rookie King award ceremony, he was proud of Itagaki as his award was announced for the most valuable fighter.
After leaving the Kōrakuen Hall with Kamogawa and Yagi, he met Sendō and the recent West Japan Rookie King Tournament winner, Hiroyuki Hoshi. Sendō expressed his desire to fight Ippo a third time when he gets stronger, but Hoshi also wanted to fight Ippo, promising that if he wins the All Japan Rookie King Tournament against Itagaki, he would face Ippo. After Sendō and Hoshi left, Ippo asked Kamogawa how long he has to keep defending, wanting to relinquish the title and fight Miyata as watching the same tournament where he was supposed to fight him left an impact on him. Ippo was then thankful as Kamogawa accepted his request.
When Itagaki's physical was done, Ippo went to the Kawai Hospital to check on and congratulate him. Ippo mentioned how envious he was that Itagaki got to face his rival in the tournament unlike him.
While Itagaki was recovering at the hospital, Ippo did extra work at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat in his place. At the Kamogawa gym, Ippo was brought into the office where he was told his OPBF title match against Miyata was decided, however, Ippo has to defend his JBC title at the Champion Carnival next year in January, two days before Miyata's fifth OPBF title defence match. Disappointed in defending his title again even though he asked to relinquish it, he became excited when Kamogawa revealed that his schedule was matched with Miyata's and his match with him was unofficially set for the coming spring.
When Itagaki got released from the hospital, Ippo nervously drove him to the gym, while causing a traffic jam and hitting Aoki. Itagaki was told that the gym has decided to resign him from the All Japan Rookie King Tournament due to his injuries. Ippo informed Itagaki about his meeting with Hoshi and the terms he put in order to challenge Ippo. After talking about how he would worry about who would hold the JBC belt after he moves on, he gave Itagaki a baton pass.
Later, Ippo learned about his seventh JBC title defence opponent, Keīchi Take, a veteran boxer who had never lost by a knockout before. Ippo went with Itagaki to see the All Japan Rookie King Tournament. There, he met Date, who warned Ippo about Take and revealed that he was nervous when Take once sent a challenge to him when he was the JBC champion until Take pulled out. Ippo then realised he should focus on Take rather than only Miyata. Ippo immediately began training on his stamina. When his weigh-in arrived, Ippo met Take, who wore a face mask, coughing, and warned Ippo to stay away as he did not want to get him sick. Ippo expressed his worry and offered to postpone the match, however the challenger declined. After the weigh-in, Ippo was shocked to discover from Kamogawa and Yagi that Take being sick was an act to make Ippo act careless.
The next day, Ippo arrived at the Kōrakuen Hall for his title defence match against Take. When the match began, Ippo was able to score an early down in the first round. When Take got up, Ippo was clinched multiple times for a minute and a half, making Take recover from the down. During a clinch, Take told Ippo that he found his weakness. Ippo kept on thinking about that, and attempted a close range fight with Take, but was unable to reach Take's head despite his feet being close to Take's. The first round then ended and Ippo was told that Take knowing his weakness did not matter as Ippo beats the odds regardless before. In the second round, Ippo continued having the same problem as the last half of round one due to Take using the Southpaw style, messing up Ippo's depth perception. After Kamogawa advised to close the distance so that him being a Southpaw did not matter, Ippo dashed toward Take, who also decided to go into close range. The two get into close range, however, Take had his shoulder on Ippo's chest, making Ippo's left and right fist unusable. In that position, Ippo was hit four times with short uppercuts, with the second round ending soon after.
In the third and fourth rounds, Ippo's punching power was cut in half due to Take being able to stop Ippo's rotation in his punches by ducking low enough to make Ippo have to punch in a downward trajectory, which he has no experience in. While dodging an uppercut in the fourth round, a cut under Ippo's left eyebrow emerged and began bleeding, affecting his vision and precision of punching. After the fourth round, Ippo pleaded for Kamogawa to stop the bleeding, wanting to continue fighting the boxer that amazed him with his abilities to neutralise his punches. Kamogawa managed to stop the bleeding and asked for Ippo to hit his hand hard as a test for his vision. Ippo threw a punch as Kamogawa purposely moved his hand so that Ippo would hit his face as a way to wake him up. Ippo was then advised to fight as he always done, and get further and lower than Take.
In the fifth round, Ippo figured out a way to counter Take's close positioning that was disabling his left and right fists by ducking lower than him and throwing the same uppercut as Take, sending him back. Ippo then used the same strategy of ducking lower than Take to deliver multiple powerful punches from below. After a clinch, Ippo and Take entered a exchange match at close range until the fifth round ended. While at the corner, he began to realise that Take is unconscious despite fighting. In the sixth round, Ippo easily knocked down Take with a one-two, however, much to his shock, Take stood back up. Knowing that a knockdown won't be able to stop Take, Ippo decided to use the Dempsey Roll to force a referee stop. However, when Ippo motioned the Dempsey Roll, Take ran into Ippo, stopping the technique. Ippo was surprised when he was hit with a strong uppercut. When another uppercut was coming, Ippo ducked lower than Take, dodging it, then throwing an uppercut of his own from that position, striking Take. Ippo then downed Take with a right hook. The referee ended the match without a count, resulting in Ippo's victory.
Ippo was interviewed in his waiting room and received mentaiko from Take as a souvenir. When he went home, he had trouble eating the mentaiko due to the pain he received in his mouth from the uppercuts
When Ippo returned to the Kamogawa gym, he learned that Aoki and Kimura are going to have matches as openers for Takamura's first WBC middleweight title defence match in March at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan. Ippo asked his gym mates if they wanted to come watch Miyata's fifth OPBF title defence match with him. While they were not interested, Aoki called Kumi, who accepted the invitation to watch with Ippo, much to Ippo's dismay. The next day, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall and met with Kumi, and the uninvited Mashiba. They went inside to watch Miyata's fifth OPBF title defence match against Che Jounbong, where Ippo noticed the fighter is similar to him and that Miyata was working on a plan to counter him. Ippo became excited that their promised match would arrive after watching Miyata win.
The next day, Ippo was informed by Kamogawa that his match with Miyata has been postponed due to Miyata fracturing both fists, however, Ippo would be the first OPBF title challenger when he recovers as his return match. Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan when Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura's matches arrived. Upon arrival, Ippo learned from Fujii that Mashiba's JBC title defence match in the Champion Carnival would be against Sawamura. After watching Aoki and Kimura's matches ending in a draw against Papaya Dachiu and Eleki Battery respectively, Ippo met the bantamweight world title challenger Yūta Ishii, wishing him luck. However, Ippo watched as the undefeated Yūta got defeated in two rounds, acknowledging how huge the world is. Ippo then watched Takamura easily defeat his challenger, Richard Fox.
When Aoki and Kimura were reading the boxing magazine of recent news, they chastised Ippo for simply commenting that he did not know who would win between Mashiba and Sawamura to the press. Ippo told Aoki and Kimura how he did not know because even though Mashiba defended his title six times, Sawamura levelled up after becoming a junior lightweight. While Ippo did not know why Mashiba requested to fight Sawamura, Itagaki suggested to ask Kumi. He went to the Hirosue to eat with Kumi, who was worried about Mashiba's words about killing Sawamura. Ippo then realised that Mashiba had not forgotten when Sawamura struck Kumi with a closed fist, which was why he chose to fight him for revenge. Later, after Itagaki got back from sparring with Mashiba, Ippo was shocked to see not even a scratch on Itagaki's face, worrying that Mashiba is not in his best condition which would lead him unable to win.
A week before Mashiba and Sawamura's match, Ippo discussed with Itagaki about Mashiba's condition during their spars. Ippo was worried when he heard how tense Mashiba was and that it would make him more vulnerable to counters, which was Sawamura's speciality. Ippo then informed Itagaki about Sawamura hitting Kumi, causing Itagaki to instruct Ippo to form a Mashiba chant to make him win. On the night of the match, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch. There, Ippo sat with Kumi as they watch Mashiba and Sawamura fight. They were frightened as the match ended with Mashiba being disqualified after attacking Sawamura while the referee was deciding if he should continue the match during a count, making Sawamura the champion despite him being punched out of the ring. After the match, Ippo did not know what to say to Kumi as she told him that she did not think she will ever like boxing. Later, Ippo found out that Sawamura got in a high speed motorcycle accident while he was going home. Ippo then got a call from Sendō, learning that Sawamura was alive, however, he was retiring from boxing
Ippo revealed what he learned from Sendō about Sawamura's retirement to his gym mates and Fujii, who also revealed to everyone that Mashiba would be suspended from boxing for over six months and up to a year. Kimura then insensitively expressed his joy that Sawamura and Mashiba were out of boxing so that he can become champion, making Ippo frustrated and not talk to him for five days. Due to players from Kimura's local shopping district's baseball game dropping out, spots were needed to be filled for the local team. Ippo was one of his friends Kimura called to invite them to the shopping district's team. When the day of baseball game arrived, Ippo went to the stadium and was assigned to the Santei Japan team with Kimura, Aoki, Takamura, and Itagaki. While Ippo played horribly during the game, Kimura's shopping district team won in the end.
Later, Ippo travelled to Osaka with Itagaki to watch Sendō's main event match against José Ramírez. Inside the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Ippo watched the semi-final consisting of Hoshi and Bunsaku Krati fighting. Ippo witnessed Hoshi defeating Bunsaku with only one punch using his Seiken. Ippo then watched Sendō defeat Jose and met with him after the match. Ippo, Sendō, and Itagaki went to the Marumi Okonomiyaki, where Sendō revealed to the two that he was fighting Mexicans because he is after Ricardo Martinez. Before Sendō left, he told Ippo that he does not think Ippo is fated to fight Miyata, but he and Ippo are fated to meet in the ring again at the top. Ippo became down from Sendō's words about Miyata while going back to Tokyo, believing that there is no way they aren't fated. Later, Ippo watched Itagaki's match, where he won by decision and became a eight rounder in order to be able to fight Hoshi.
After Itagaki was getting pushed in a spar with Aoki and teasing him about it, Ippo reflected how it was petty after Kimura explained the teasing was because if Itagaki won, he would surpass him and Aoki in the "gym's internal ranking system". While doing roadwork with Itagaki, Ippo helped him regain his drive as he was worried about his match with Hoshi by reminding him of the baton pass. On the day of Itagaki's match against Hoshi, Ippo arrived to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium. There, Ippo learned from Yagi that Shinoda was thinking of resigning if Itagaki lost the match. Before heading to the audience seats, he came across Sendō, who warned him about Hoshi's abilities when facing him despite Ippo being sure that Itagaki would win so he won't have to fight him. Ippo then watched the match with Sendō, where he witnessed Itagaki using his Bullet Time as he defeated Hoshi.
Ippo reflected on how selfish he was to his mother for starting boxing, thankful to her for letting him continue boxing, wanting to take over the fishing business as soon as possible, and that his match against Miyata would be his last match. He then came across Miyata, who did a dogeza, apologising that their promised match would not happen and claiming that it was not fated, leaving Ippo depressed from the shocking news. Ippo later returned to the gym, and, during a mitt practice session with Kamogawa, could not bring out his usual strength as he did not know who he is supposed to beat. He was then told to leave after expressing how he could not forget about Miyata after Kamogawa tried to refuel Ippo's fighting spirit. He was later approached by Mari and was reminded about his fists being light, but not light enough to throw away the fists that carry his previous opponents' dreams. Ippo then remembered his reason of fighting was to become strong and decided to continue boxing and run until he gets his answer.
Ippo came back to the gym and apologised to Kamogawa for his actions that led him to get thrown out of the gym. Kamogawa then told that he would immediately get a match in one month, with a goal to become an unofficial OPBF champion after beating multiple OPBF national champions in order to aim for the world. Fired up by the announcement, Ippo began his training with Kamogawa. The gym members returned from their training camp and were excited to see Ippo again. As they were curious about who Ippo's next opponent was, Ippo revealed that he would be fighting against Thailand champion Jimmy Sisphar. The day before the match, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall for the weigh-in, where he met Sisphar and was scared of his scarred appearance.
The next day, Ippo arrived to the ring and the match began. Ippo had trouble facing Sisphar's tactic of charging forward from a distance and throwing powerful Jolt Blows, with even a Cross-Arm Block not being able to fully block it. Ippo charged forward to stop Sisphar's charging and enter an in-fight, however, the punches Ippo lands, including a right counter against a huge swing were ignored by Sisphar. After Ippo's hand was blown back from a close range Jolt Blow, he went down when he was hit by a Tornado Jolt as the gong to end the first round sounded. It was declared a slip, however, as he was hit by Sisphar's inner elbow due to sticking his head forward as it hit to disrupt the point of impact as a reflex from training to do it to Miyata's counters. In his corner, Ippo was told by Kamogawa to do the only thing he can do.
In the second round, Ippo took the advice and did the only thing he can do: move forward. Ippo was able to land hits, however, they were not enough as, after he realised that Sisphar can repeatedly throw full powered punches, he took a hit and lost consciousness for a small period of time. Ippo began to lose hope, throwing halfhearted punches as he did not expect the repeated full powered blows. He was hit by another full powered blow and barely caught his fall, while bruises surface on his shoulders, as Ippo has been having Sisphar hit his shoulders to reduce the power. Ippo and Sisphar had a dual exchange, which hurt Ippo the worse. As Ippo was sliding down at the corner from the damage of the dual exchange, Sisphar was about to land another punch. However, the gong ending the second round sounded and Ippo's impending fall was saved due to Yagi's timely arrival of the chair catching his fall. Ippo noticed how he stopped Sisphar's charging after the dual exchange and believed that dual exchanges are the only option, which Kamogawa agreed.
In the third round, Ippo and Sisphar have dual exchanges and exchanges at the centre of the ring, with Ippo throwing his punches differently to that of the Jolt Blow, which damaged Sisphar more than Ippo's usual punches. After the third round, Ippo was instructed by Kamogawa to use uppercuts rather than left and right hooks like Sisphar in order to change the rhythm. In the fourth round, after a lengthy exchange session between the two, Ippo attempted to throw an uppercut after a hook, however, Ippo brought his body up too soon and the two boxers' foreheads collided, causing severe bleeding above their eyes. Sisphar's experience of fighting in situations like so made Ippo get hit while being unable to hit back due to his vision being affected by the blood. Ippo was launched back by an attack and saw something in the lights on the ceiling. Ippo motioned the Dempsey Roll and, instead of a constant figure-8 motion, Ippo moved his body up from below, aiming for Kamogawa's mitt in the ceiling's light, landing an uppercut on Sisphar. Sisphar went down from the uppercut and the referee immediately stopped the match, making Ippo the winner. Despite the win, Ippo received a long scolding session from Kamogawa before going home and reflecting that he has branched off a different path from Miyata in order to find his answer as to what it means to be strong.
While Ippo was fishing, Kumi joined him and tried to invite him to go to the pool, but Ippo declined as he could not do anything due to the injuries received from fighting Sisphar. As they talked about boxing and Mashiba, Kumi requested for Ippo to make it back in one piece. Ippo felt as if he should remember that as he selfishly follow his dreams, he is making others worry a lot. Later, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan and watched Itagaki's match against Alex Harker, Kimura's match against Michael Gehon, and Aoki's match against Padawan Yoda where all three Kamogawa gym members won. Ippo watched the main event starring Takamura's second WBC middleweight title defence in his beetle outfit, throwing only the new Beetle's Uppercut many times at Rickey Mouse until he won. Afterwards, Ippo took a group photo with his gym mates, which he later sent to Nekota along with a letter about what has been going on at the Kamogawa gym. Ippo got a reply back, with a poem he shared with his gym mates about autumn leaves being like boxing gloves and a poem he kept to himself about weight of fists being inherited are heavyweight, though he had no idea what it meant.
Later, Ippo and Itagaki attended Miyata's non-title match against Donnie Sultan, which was his first match coming back from injuring both of his fists. Ippo watched as Miyata won using a new counter that was meant for him, predicting that he would have fell for that counter as well. Ippo also realised that Miyata using the new counter was a way of messaging him that they would never meet in the ring again. Walking away from the ring, Ippo expressed to Itagaki how he would have lost to Miyata if they fought, however, Itagaki pointed out that Ippo never said he would win once when the match was decided. Ippo made Itagaki frustrated as he felt simply being in the ring with his idol would have been enough, however, Itagaki made Ippo realise that he would have regretted fighting against Miyata if he fought with those feelings. Ippo was approached by Mr. Sakaguchi, who proposed a deal for the shortest path to the world title, with the condition of defeating Randy Boy Junior, the OPBF interim champion. Ippo declined the offer, as it would only happen if Randy defeated the full champion Miyata, which he is confident would beat Randy. Ippo was puzzled as Mr. Sakaguchi laughed at his claim and told him that history has proven otherwise.
Curious about Randy's boxing, Ippo went to the Monthly Boxing Fan to watch videos of him. He watched a video with Miyata's father, who was also there, and they both were shocked to see Randy, using a southpaw stance, knocking out an opponent that used a anti-southpaw counter by switching to the orthodox stance. Learning that Randy's father was the one that ended Miyata's father's career, Ippo felt as if he could cheer him on, knowing that Miyata's oath of proving his father's boxing is not wrong is more important than their promise.
Later, freelance trainer Baron Kurita entered the gym claiming to be sent to the gym to look after things while Kamogawa was away. Baron put Ippo, Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki through harsh training. Ippo was asked by Baron to sign a contract to get special training from him and abandon the Kamogawa "ship" and join him to become "Team Baron". Ippo requested to test Baron's mitt training skills, as he believes Kamogawa knows the best placements and timings for the mitts. Baron was able to catch his punches at first, however, Baron was unable to keep up and Ippo punched Baron, making him go through the ropes. Ippo then proclaimed that he would go to the world only with Kamogawa. Baron left when Takamura arrived and it was revealed how Baron was just trying to steal Ippo to increase his poor representation.
When Yagi got off the phone with the police to pick up Kamogawa at the police station, Ippo went with Yagi to the station in Sendai, Miyagi, Tōhoku. Along the way, Ippo learned from Yagi that Kamogawa went to a gym in the area to pick up tapes of Ippo's next opponent, however, Kamogawa caused an incident there. When they arrive at the Sennindai Police Station where Kamogawa got released, they find out that the coach of the Tsukahara gym was beaten with Kamogawa's cane. Ippo, Yagi and Kamogawa listened to the coach's story of how his boxer, Kyōsuke Fukui fought Ippo's next opponent and won in a fixed match, with his boxer retiring shortly after due to the shame of his opponent losing on purpose. The Tsukahara coach pleaded to Ippo for him to beat his next opponent, Filipino champion Malcolm Gedo before leaving.
After returning to the Kamogawa gym, the recently retired Fukui requested to spar against Ippo to test himself. After Kamogawa provoked Fukui into getting serious and ordered Ippo to win by knockout in one round or get thrown out, the spar began. Ippo quickly defeated Fukui in the first round, and, when Fukui left, Ippo chased after him. When he caught up, he tried to get Fukui to go back to boxing, thinking it would be a waste if he retired after seeing his potential, however, Fukui couldn't get over his match against Gedo. Fukui then warned Ippo about Gedo's "magic", as his sense of distance was distorted during the whole match for an unknown reason. As Fukui left, Ippo asked him if he was sure he wanted to quit boxing. Fukui answered that he wouldn't end it and he would prove himself to Kamogawa, who called his coach a failure, and hoped to see Ippo again in the ring again.
After his match with Gedo was approved by his gym, Ippo wanted to find out the magic behind his ability to distort his opponent's sense of distance. After having trouble figuring out Gedo's magic, Ippo decided that he should just forget about it and if it extends, he just has to avoid it and keep moving forward. Kamogawa took Ippo to the Tōhō gym in order to spar with Mashiba, as Mashiba has long range and was near Ippo's weight class, much to the dismay of both boxers. When the spar began, Ippo was able to get close to Mashiba after manoeuvring through his Flicker Jabs. Ippo used his Dempsey Roll, hitting Mashiba while dodging his Flicker Jabs until he was hit with a right uppercut. After the spar, he admitted to Kamogawa that he lost and believed the right uppercut was designed to defeat him. Ippo apologised to Kamogawa and Yagi, thinking that the spar was not of any use, however, Kamogawa disagreed.
When Ippo returned to the gym, Aoki and Kimura informed him of a visitor in Kamogawa's office, where a heated conversation was happening. Ippo took a peek to see and was shocked to see Gedo talking to a furious Kamogawa only about the prize money. Ippo watched as Kamogawa decided that the winner would take ¥2,000,000. As Gedo happily left, Ippo fell over and was offered a hand by Gedo, who showed no signs of knowing the opponent he would face in a month. Ippo began his training with Kamogawa, who wanted Ippo to hit him so hard he would never forget him. Ippo arrived at the weigh-in and, after passing his weight check, he noticed how Gedo had two scars on his body. After the weigh-in, Ippo found Gedo in the ring and was offered a deal if he received ¥3,000,000, he would let Ippo win. Ippo, disgusted about the deal, voiced that he wanted Gedo to fight him seriously in the dangerous sport, as he won't be responsible to what happens to him if Gedo held back. Gedo revealed to Ippo his hard life and that the two wounds on his body was from getting shot in the streets and believed the ring to be the safest place in the world. Shocked from what Gedo said, Ippo offered Gedo an extra ¥500,000 if he defeated him by knockout, which Gedo accepted.
On the day of the match, Ippo realised he did not have to extra ¥500,000, but with the help of his mother and friends, he was able to gather ¥500,000. At the ring as Ippo and Gedo's match was about to start, Gedo offered to let Ippo win for another ¥500,000, however, Ippo only glared at him. When the match began, Ippo immediately attacked Gedo, and downed him after he grazed Gedo's temple with a left hook. When Gedo got up, he began to use a trick against Ippo by holding his fist out at Ippo's eye level, then with Ippo's attention on his fist and throwing a punch, Gedo escaped into Ippo's blind spot, seemingly disappearing to Ippo. Ippo had trouble with this tactic until Kamogawa yelled to watch Gedo's feet, successfully hitting him in the body once he tracked where he would go from looking at his feet. The first round then ended shortly after.
In the second round, just when Ippo began to gauge Gedo's punching range and figured out his trick from the first round, he was hit outside Gedo's punching range, thinking his arm just extended. He continued to be unable to get close to Gedo, getting thrown off by his lefts that are hitting him outside of Gedo's range until the second round ended. At the corner, since Kamogawa figured Ippo couldn't gauge his distance, he instructed Ippo to aim for dual exchanges. In the third round, Ippo did as ordered and, after a successful dual exchange, he got to his favourable range at Gedo's chest. However, when he was about to hit Gedo, he was hit by a right uppercut. Ippo attempted to do another dual exchange, but he could not reach him even though he was hit as the third round came to an end. Ippo was unable to get a good hit on Gedo from the fourth to the sixth round, and was repeatedly hit with counters and uppercuts when he got close. After the sixth round, Ippo was told two things from Kamogawa: to keep his neck pulled in as tight to his shoulders as possible, and to stop Gedo's movement when he closes in, which Ippo gathered that he should throw a liver blow.
In the seventh round, was at first pushed back by Gedo's lefts. However, after remembering Date telling him that his fists are light, Ippo felt that Gedo's fists are light as they are fists that only hold onto money and that they do not hurt. Ippo kept his neck tight and charged toward Gedo, getting to his chest. After dodging a right uppercut, Ippo delivered a liver blow. The punch did not stop Gedo's movements as it only grazed him, leading Ippo to charge forward with his neck tight against Gedo's lefts again. When Ippo got to Gedo's chest, he perfectly dodged the right uppercut, however, Gedo quickly blocked his chin and his body. Remembering Date and how Kamogawa told him to stop Gedo's movements, Ippo aimed for Gedo's heart, and hit him in the heart. Gedo's time wasn't paused long enough, as Ippo's follow-up punch only grazed Gedo, however, Gedo immediately backed himself into the ropes from fear after seeing Ippo's punch. Ippo got to Gedo's chest and delivered two body blows as Gedo blocked his heart by reflex. As Gedo retreated, Ippo became unable keep his neck tense and his vision became distorted. After getting hit with Gedo's lefts and his eyes become swollen almost shut, the seventh round ended. At the corner, Ippo's swollen eyes were healed after Kamogawa, having placed his hands in a bucket of ice for forty seconds, placed his icy cold hands on them.
In the eighth round, Ippo charged toward Gedo, knowing he could take a few hits while getting close. To his surprise however, Gedo's punches became more damaging due Gedo clinching his fist and not extending his range with unclenched fists and loose-fitted gloves. Ippo was pushed back to the ropes as he held a tight guard to his head. His guard was broken and, after getting hit with a left, Ippo dodged a right as the punches that Gedo throws were no longer confusing him. Being able to see and dodge Gedo's punches, Ippo hit him with multiple body blows, making Gedo go to the ropes. After Ippo stopped Gedo from escaping the ropes, and dodged a right uppercut, Ippo hit Gedo with a liver blow that caused him to go down. When Gedo got up, Ippo and Gedo's fists soon collided, with Gedo's fist being flung away. After hitting Gedo with a right, both boxers get hit in an exchange. Ippo then hit Gedo with combinations until Gedo goes down from a right uppercut. The referee immediately ended the match, resulting in Ippo's victory.
In the changing room, Ippo thanked everyone for their help with his match before going to the health room after his face begun to swell as the cooling effect Kamogawa put on him after round seven wore off.
Before getting checked at the health room, he saw Gedo and, after learning that he would still do his extending punch trick, asked if he would still offer to throw matches, which he answered that he still would. Ippo was confused as to why he would, as he expressed how strong Gedo was and asked if he ever wanted to be a world champion. Ippo was then shocked after hearing Gedo saying he did, but figured it would be impossible to after coming across Randy Boy Junior, warning Ippo that he may come across him if he went for the world title. With Randy being the OPBF intern champion and Miyata's next opponent, Ippo was sure Miyata would defeat him, but hearing Gedo's words made him acknowledge how vast the world is.
After recovering from his fight against Gedo, Ippo was asked by Itagaki to go meet him at the Kōrakuen Hall. When he arrived, Ippo met Itagaki and his team, who looked up to Ippo and and were there to take their pro test as they recently joined the Kamogawa gym. While waiting for team Itagaki to do their pro test, Ippo met Saeki and Karasawa. Saeki and Karasawa informed Ippo that they were planning on getting ranked first to take the JBC featherweight belt, fighting Ippo if he still has the belt when they get there, and that they would be participating in the Class A Tournament along with Fukui and Itagaki. After their conversation, Ippo checked to see how team Itagaki did, however, it turned out the duo got knocked down and most likely did not pass. Afterwards, when Itagaki claimed that it would be his first time fighting someone faster than him, Ippo was asked by Yagi of his opinion, which Ippo commented that Itagaki is not much slower but lacks the experience Saeki and Karasawa have. Later after a fishing trip, Ippo was approached by Kumi. He was excited to hear that Mashiba was going to have his return match soon as his suspension is almost over and agreed to go with her to watch Mashiba's OPBF title match.
Later, when Randy came to Japan and held public sparring sessions at the Otowa gym, Itagaki was invited to spar against him. Wanting to see Randy fight, he went with Itagaki to the gym. After Itagaki got knocked down in the second round of the three round spar and unable to continue, Randy's manager, Mr. Sakaguchi boasted on how Randy will defeat Ricardo and become the world champion, making Ippo glare and ask if Randy was ready for the world since he still had to fight Miyata. Sakaguchi's downplay of Miyata made Ippo irritated at the two that got between him and Miyata, and when the reporters realise that there was still one more round left and cheered for Ippo to face him, Ippo got ready and entered the ring to fight Randy for one round. As Ippo and Randy were about to start fighting, Sakaguchi got in between them and stopped the spar, reminding Ippo how he refused to fight Randy the last time they met, and that Randy will only face him after his fight with Miyata and when Ippo's world ranking is on the line. After Randy and Sakaguchi left, Ippo became down as talk that Randy being Miyata's worse match up emerged. However, when Imai joined the conversation and revealed how Miyata was sparring with him and a Southpaw at the same time to counter Randy's Switch Hitting, Ippo was amazed at how Miyata seemed prepared.
When Ippo returned to the Kamogawa gym and watched Takamura defeat three boxers at the same time in a spar to one up Miyata's two on one spar, Ippo learned that Takamura's third WBC middleweight title defence opponent in April would be Ronald Duck, Aoki and Kimura would be openers, and Miyata would face Randy in the semi-final. After sparring with Kimura, Ippo and his gym mates notice Takamura was not sweating due to the cold weather. Takamura mentioned how Miyata must be worse off, which Ippo voiced his worries about until Takamura stopped him and reminded him that he was about to fight the same Miyata that was suffering from weight control. Hearing that, he became depressed realising that to fight Miyata, he would have to go through harsh weight control and Takamura noting that it was all Ippo's fault that Miyata is staying in the featherweights made him even more depressed.
While the Kawahara gym stopped Imai from training with Miyata as they did not need him anymore, they begun to look to get an uppercut specialist to help Miyata fight Randy, wishing to have Ippo spar with Miyata. Itagaki heard about that and told Ippo, who became ecstatic until he realised Kamogawa wouldn't let him do it. He then thought about how he could help Miyata until he saw Sendō arrive at the Kamogawa gym. Sendō revealed to the gym of his "beat-down list", which Miyata was one of the names on it for him to spar against to help him train to fight Mexicans. Ippo decided to take him to the Kawahara gym for Miyata and Sendō to help each other before being stopped by Kamogawa and have Itagaki take Sendō instead. Due to Kamogawa not wanting to let Ippo go see the spar, Ippo became depressed until his depression annoyed the others at the gym, making them order him to go around and buy them outlandish items as a hint for him to watch the spar. Ippo arrived outside the Kawahara gym, peeping through the window and watched the spar. Afterwards, Ippo invited Sendō to sleep at his house. where Sendō argues with Ippo over who won the spar
A week later, while Ippo theorised with his gym mates about how Miyata's spars against Sendō went, Sendō arrived and confirmed that Miyata was not using his footwork, assuming his weight control was the reason. A dried up Takamura then arrived, revealing how, thanks to Ippo bringing the drink he requested a week ago, his weight control was easy. Takamura was going to bring some of the drinks to Miyata before being stopped by Ippo.
On the day of the "WORLD CONQUEST PROCLAMATION" event at the Yokohama Arena, Ippo arrived at the venue and watched Kimura's match against Sim Rex which ended in a decision loss in the fifth round due to a doctor stoppage. Ippo stayed with Kimura while Aoki went to fight Ponsa Kureck, which also ended in a decision loss. Ippo went back out to the audience seats and watched Miyata's match against Randy with Itagaki, Sendō, and Sawamura. After Miyata won using the Corkscrew Counter, Sawamura asked if Ippo wanted to fight Miyata and was fine with Miyata being far away from him, which Ippo answered that he was fine with it, as he does not think of him and Miyata as rivals, but someone he looks up to. Ippo then watched the main event where Takamura won against Ronald Duck.
Inspired by Miyata's unbreakable spirit in his match against Randy, Ippo began running to improve his stamina to be like Miyata's. While running, he was met by Kumi, reminding Ippo about Mashiba's match. Ippo confirmed that he was going anyway since Itagaki is going to have a match, suggesting that they should cheer both Itagaki and Mashiba together. When Kumi was leaving, she fell and landed on a sled at the hillside, which Ippo also tripped over, landing near it and being face-to-face with her. As he was about to kiss her, his head hit the ground as Kumi slid down the hill. This event boosted Ippo's confidence and, after a spar against Itagaki where he got hit a lot, could only think about how satisfied he was to feel Kumi's breath on him.
On the day of the "THE SECOND COMING OF DEATH" event, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall with Kumi, met Saeki and Karasawa who came to watch Itagaki, and wished Itagaki good luck before going to the audience seats to watch the matches. Watching Itagaki's match against Kaonar Pachiyoso, Ippo was shocked to see Itagaki win by using Miyata's Jolt Counter. Ippo then watched Mashiba's lightweight OPBF title match against Aaron Domingo where he won and became the champion, leaving Ippo amazed.
While training with Itagaki, Ippo asked him what he thought the difference between each other were. Itagaki thought it was Ippo being a champion and him a ranker, however, Ippo explained that it was their ages, and that since he is older, he had the chance of becoming a champion before him, adding that being older doesn't make him better as there are things he can't do that Itagaki can, expressing how he is glad he doesn't have to fight Itagaki. Ippo returned to the gym and learned from Kamogawa that he, along with everyone else, have matches coming up, with Ippo fighting the Indonesian champion, who was considered an unrivalled genius with him winning all three of his matches. Ippo asked for any information about the champion, however, with the video Kamogawa received, he could only answer that it was a nice place, much to Ippo's confusion. Upon viewing the video with everyone, it seemed to only show monkeys and Indonesia, however, after Ippo inspected it at his house, he discovered that a man was among those monkeys. Ippo reported his findings to Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki, predicting that the champion is a fast fighter with great punches. Ippo found out from Itagaki that the champion's trainer is Miguel Zale.
Wishing to observe how monkeys act in their natural habitat, Ippo went to the Shimono Zoo, however, the monkeys there were not active. Mari approached Ippo and suggested that his fight with the Indonesian champion seemed even since both boxers have famous trainers, raising his spirits. At the Kamogawa gym, with the opponents revealed for Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki, Ippo began training with the group.
A month before the match, Ippo trained to stop the champion from going in circles around Ippo by trapping him in a corner and using combinations to keep him there. This strategy proved to be ineffective as Ippo and Kamogawa received a call from Volg and Dankichi respectively revealing to them, after revealing the champion's name being Wally, how, after he sparred with Volg, that Wally is most effective at the corner. Despite the warning, Kamogawa theorised that the deciding point of the match would be at the corner and continue the training to prepare Ippo for the corner battle. At the weigh-in at Kōrakuen Hall, Ippo met Wally for the first time and, after the weight check, he was forcefully hugged by the excited Wally, who then gave Ippo some of his bananas. Feeling bad that he ate the bananas and had nothing to give back, Wally insisted that Ippo would give him something the next day. Leaving the venue with Yagi, Ippo gave his opinion of Wally that he is strong, being similar to Volg and Sendō.
The next day, Ippo felt excited for the match as he ran to the Kōrakuen Hall and, in his waiting room, he imagined Wally as Miyata in his mind trying to get him to the ropes. Just as the match began, Wally dashed forward with a punch, which Ippo deflected. Ippo proceeded to block every punch Wally quickly threw. Knowing that that would not be enough to worry Volg, Ippo decided to come after Wally and trap him into going to the ropes. When Ippo tried to stop Wally's movements with a body blow, Wally fled from the ropes. Ippo threw a long ranged hook at the fleeing Wally, who attempted to dodge, but Ippo's pinky hit his jaw, causing him to go down. When Wally got up, Ippo rushed toward him and noticed his stance has dropped. Ippo's attacks were then dodged by Wally's new style, and Ippo was hit in unusual angles until the end of the first round.
In the second round, Ippo realised that he won't be able to hit Wally at the centre of the ring, so he plans to get him to the corner. Ippo lead him to the ropes by throwing punches that miss. Rushing forward with his Peek-a-Boo Style to begin his attack at the ropes, Ippo's Peek-a-Boo guard was broken with a Smash, which also hit the unsuspecting Ippo's jaw. Ippo began to move forward again, as Wally entered the Hitman Style's stance and used Flicker Jabs. Ippo blocked the jabs until he got close to Wally, but he was unable to hit him as Wally evaded the attack. Ippo motioned a bob and weave motion, dodging more Flicker Jabs and then trapping Wally into a corner by using a zigzag strategy, however, the second round ended right as Ippo got Wally into a corner. In his corner, Ippo informed Kamogawa of his prediction that Wally will be pushed into the red corner, as he noticed a habit of Wally's, that he always jumps to the right.
In the third round, Ippo went through with his plan to trap Wally into a corner. When Ippo got Wally to jump right into the corner, he was surprised when Wally did not appear in the corner, as Wally grabbed onto the ropes and flung himself behind Ippo, hitting him. Seeing it a second time caused Ippo to panic and get hit. Ippo was unable to get him into the corner for some time as Wally's movements proved to be unpredictable and he was getting hit by unorthodox punches at the same time. Ippo managed to get him into the corner after throwing a big swing while Wally was at the ropes. However, Ippo's punches were swiftly dodged at the corner and Ippo was hit by a counter that caused him to stare blankly and almost fell before catching himself. With Ippo at the corner, Ippo threw a punch at a charging Wally's guard, pushing him back, with the momentum almost causing Ippo to fall. As Wally put himself in front of the corner, Ippo remembered hearing from Volg that the corner is where Wally is most effective. Ippo charged to the corner to attack Wally. Wally went behind Ippo and countered him. Ippo then used a Cross-Arm Block to block Wally's attacks. The third round ended as Wally pried the block open. At his corner, Ippo was advised to hit Wally when he comes toward him, which Ippo took as Kamogawa wanting him to trade hits with Wally.
When the fourth round began, Ippo's attacks were unable to reach the agile Wally. Wally switched to a more offensive style, which made Ippo confident that he would be able to trade hits. However, Ippo was the only one getting hit as he could not land a hit on Wally. Near the end of the fourth round, Ippo hit a small milestone of touching Wally's body for the first time with his fist. After the fourth round, Ippo went to the corner smiling form his small achievement, wishing to aim for bigger targets later one step at a time, starting with tapping Wally's body five times. In the fifth round, Ippo, while getting brutally hit, managed to tap Wally's body five times. Ippo was then beaten in the corner until the fifth match ended, with Yagi catching his fall with the chair, thanks to his chair skills. Ippo was instructed to touch Wally six times in the sixth round.
In the sixth round, Ippo completed his goal of touching Wally six times, getting hit in the process many times. Ippo hit Wally's block with a punch that made him fly back to the corner. Ippo approached Wally at the corner and was hit, leaving Ippo barely hanging onto the ropes. Ippo then threw a big swing at Wally, who jump backwards and stumbles upon landing. The sixth round immediately ends after, and, at the corner, Ippo asked Kamogawa for the next goal. Ippo was told to throw only punches that could take Wally down. In round seven, Ippo began throwing only punches with all his power into it, however, they don't land until Wally tried to use his footwork to dodge but couldn't, making Ippo's punches land on his guard. After Ippo landed an uppercut on Wally's one handed guard, both boxers hit each other in an exchange, with Wally being worse off. Ippo landed another hit going through Wally's guard, making him go to the ropes. The seventh round ended afterwards. Before the eighth round began, Kamogawa ordered Ippo that his next goal would be to take down Wally.
In the eighth round, Ippo and Wally have a slug fest in the middle of the ring, which ended when Wally was hit with a liver blow. Wally willingly backed up to a corner, which Ippo responded by approaching him while doing the Dempsey Roll's motion. Ippo used the Dempsey Roll's motion to make Wally unable to escape the corner. Both boxers stopped moving, and Ippo landed a liver blow. Ippo then landed a right, which triggered Wally's trainer, Miguel into throwing the towel into the ring as Wally fell. The referee signalled an end to the match, resulting in Ippo's victory as he falls as well.
Ippo woke up in his waiting room and told his curious gym mates how he thought he saw a bird flying at the end, which he realised was just the towel Miguel threw, and that he thinks Wally is amazing. Ippo went back to the ring, imagining how the ring looks as a jungle of which he thought he was in during the match. Ippo acknowledged how Wally looked forward to fighting him and wondered if he met his expectations. He then believed that one day, he would look back on the match and think that it was fun.
With Itagaki's first opponent in the Class A Tournament being Karasawa, Ippo let him see his boxing magazine on Karasawa at his house. At the gym, Ippo noticed Itagaki seemed down and went to encourage him. Itagaki then asked what round Ippo thinks he would win in against Karasawa, with his personal goal to beat Ippo's time. Ippo answered that he believed it would go into a decision. When the first round of the Class A Tournament for Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura arrived, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall and encouraged the three boxers before running into Sanada and Saeki on his way to the audience seats. Ippo watched Itagaki's match against Karasawa with Sanada and Saeki, which ended in Itagaki's victory. Ippo went to Itagaki's room to check on him and give him a wet towel for his face. He watched Fukui's match against Makoto Maezono television screen and was shocked to see Fukui lose. Ippo then watched Aoki and Kimura win by decision in their match against Itō Jackal and Takeshi Ryūzaki respectively, and Imae Katsutaka and Shinobu Iga's match where Iga, who had his trainer Baron by him, someone Ippo recognised, won easily by knockout.
To celebrate Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki's win in the first round of the Class A Tournament, Ippo and the three gathered at Kimura's house. After some failed attempts to not talk about boxing as it reminds the boxers of their injuries, the group have "boy talk", talking about their relationship with women. To Ippo, Aoki, and Itagaki's surprise, Kimura claimed to have a girlfriend. Kimura gave the three a ticket to Nermina Park, which Ippo used to go on a date with Kumi. Ippo and Kumi came across Aoki and Tomiko, and Itagaki and Mari while there. Ippo tried to stop Aoki from spreading rumours of Kimura being an anime-loving paedophile after finding an anime DVD in his room, until Aoki called Kimura to show them his girlfriend. However, Kimura was near the group, not knowing they're there and told Aoki that he is was at the park and would show his girlfriend another time, as Ippo and the others see Kimura with a little girl. Aoki called the cops and had Kimura arrested. Ippo and Itagaki then arrived at the police station after Kimura was proven innocent. They apologised to him and walked him home, with Ippo expressing how thoughtful Kimura was taking the little girl to the amusement park.
Later at the gym, Kamogawa announced that Takamura would be having another title defence and that Ippo would be having his eighth JBC featherweight title defence against Hisato Kojima, a former lightweight ranker who moved down to the featherweights. Ippo wondered why Kojima would go two weight classes down to fight him, Kimura mentioned that Kojima was looking down on him, thinking that his toughness and power from the lightweights would let him handle Ippo easily. Ippo began training to thicken his neck to absorb the shock from the lightweight's punches and building stamina to not lose out from getting pushed by another body. When he heard that Itagaki was going to the Kōrakuen Hall to see who he would be fighting next between Makoto and Saeki, Ippo went with him and Aoki. They arrive during the opener fights and noticed Kojima cheering for someone. Ippo felt Kojima was a good person and proceeded to request a handshake before Kojima stopped him to ask for their fight to consist of Ippo stopping and exchange blows with him. Ippo answered that that was all he can do, which Kojima replied that he would win then.
Kojima began provoking Ippo about how his punches would break him, however, Ippo thought Kojima was still a nice guy and provocations were common before a match. When Kojima claimed that Ippo's previous opponents were crappy boxers, hacks, and jokers, Ippo asked him why he would say that, as he believed them to be good boxers. After Kojima's further provocations, Ippo walked away, telling him that he would see him in the ring, going home without seeing Saeki and Makoto's match. The next day, Ippo learned that Saeki won the match from Itagaki, and Ippo expressed how he was disappointed in Kojima since he thought he was a nice person. Later, Umezawa visited Ippo and Itagaki at Ippo's home, and first discussed about manga. Umezawa had Ippo read the latest Boxing Fan magazine issue that had Takamura's title defence announcement and Kojima had a section claiming to know Ippo's weakness and also mocked Ippo's previous fighters. Itagaki suggested that Ippo should cancel the match if he doesn't get into the spirit so that he could fight him, however, Ippo expressed that it is his responsibility as Kojima talks a little too much.
While running with Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura, they spot Takamura next to a campfire. Takamura advised Ippo to remember the faces of his previous opponents every time he gets hit by Kojima, and to fight like a champion since he isn't just about him this time. After hearing Kamogawa's advice to keep Takamura's words in mind but still fight like a challenger and fight according to his boxing style, Ippo decided that he would fight using his usual boxing. On the day of the weigh-in, Ippo went to the Roigal Hotel, not worried about what Kojima might say to him as he has faith in Kamogawa's advice and his training. At the weigh-in, while Ippo was in good shape, Kojima's body looked frail. The press then asked for a comment, which Ippo told them that he would do what he was trained to do and work hard. Kojima mocked Ippo's comment and then claimed that the weakness he knows Ippo has is the fault of his trainer, Kamogawa. The provocations made Ippo visibly angry. As Ippo walked away, Kojima claimed that arcade games measure his punching power as two tons. When the press asked for Ippo's score, Ippo replied for them to ask Kojima after their match.
The next day, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan for his match against Kojima. In the waiting room with Takamura, Takamura asked Ippo if he was going to be fine in the match, to which Ippo answered that it won't take long. Ippo then entered the ring and the match began. Ippo took a wider stance than usual and, after about a minute of neither boxer moving, Ippo dashed toward Kojima. In range, Ippo began to throw a left hook, however, he was hit with a counter. Ippo was about to fall until he caught his fall when he remembered the faces of his previous opponents and Kamogawa. Ippo immediately threw a left that sends Kojima in the air and onto the canvas. The referee quickly ended the match without and count, resulting in Ippo's victory from one punch. Despite winning, Ippo held his head down as he walked from the ring. Ippo expressed his remorse to Takamura in the waiting room from how he fought against Kojima. Ippo thanked both Kamogawa for the training and Takamura for the advice that helped him in the match. After everyone left for Takamura's match against Peter Rabbitson, Ippo fainted. Ippo was found by Aoki, who began helping him go to the doctor until Aoki found out the autograph he signed for Kojima was found in the trash by Team Aoki, causing Aoki to run off, leaving Ippo.
When Aoki came back to Ippo and told him how Takamura might lose the match against Rabbitson, the two ran to see the match. They watched as Takamura wins by knockout after only one punch in the final round. The next day, Ippo went into Kamogawa's office and received a lecture about how the boxing he did was not the boxing Kamogawa taught him. As Ippo showed signs of a fever, Kamogawa had Itagaki walk Ippo home. At his house, Kumi visited to check on him. Ippo mentioned how he received good advice from Kamogawa that violence is bad, which Kumi agreed. Ippo was interviewed at the gym by Mari about his match. After commenting his praise on Kojima's punch, he told her that he should not have taken that punch and that he ignored and betrayed his training, training that never betrayed him, regretting what happened. After the interview Mari was going to head to interview Kojima. Aoki wished to come along and asked Ippo to give his signature on a pair of boxing gloves to give to him, since Kojima was a fan. When Aoki came back, Ippo learned that Kojima had retired.
Ippo went to Umezawa's house and helped him with editing his manga, however, Ippo kept on making mistakes. They discuss the odds of Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki winning, which Ippo believed Aoki to have the best chance. Ippo went with Itagaki to attend his sparring sessions. Afterwards he walked with a beaten Itagaki, and supported him by mentioning that it was probably a bad day. While talking, Ippo became suspicious that Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura were holding something from him. Itagaki revealed to Ippo that Aoki and Kimura were thinking about retiring after seeing someone around their age in Kojima retiring. Not wanting them to retire, Ippo wished to cheer for them as much as he can.
At his house, Ippo got a call from Takamura about bad news. Ippo arrived to Takamura to find out what happened and was shown a video which Takamura claimed to be a fatal flaw of Aoki's. Watching the video and heating Takamura's explanation, Ippo learned that Aoki's fatal flaw was that he closes his eyes as a punch is coming toward him. Since Takamura did not want to go to the gym to hear Kamogawa's lecture about his match against Rabbitson, Takamura persuaded Ippo tell Aoki, or Aoki would lose and it would be Ippo's fault. After not being able to tell him the next day, Ippo reviewed Aoki's match videos and discovered that his trauma of closing his eyes happened before his debut match and it was a right straight. Ippo went to the gym and, after stopping Takamura, Kimura, and Itagaki from picking on Aoki, he got Tomiko to perform hypnosis on Aoki to reveal who caused the trauma. When it turned out to be Takamura, the gym members came up with a plan for Aoki to overcome his fear of Takamura to cure his trauma that affected his boxing. Ippo, Itagaki, and Kimura held Aoki while Takamura threw rights at Aoki's face until Aoki was able to keep his eyes open and describe the type of punch Takamura threw, curing his trauma.
On the day of the Class A Tournament finals, Ippo arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki's matches with Takamura. Ippo watched Itagaki's match against Saeki, which ended in Itagaki's win. Ippo went to the waiting room to congratulate him as Kimura and Aoki go off for their matches. Ippo watched Kimura's match on the television screen where he lost by decision against a previous JBC junior lightweight champion and then Aoki's match against Iga where he lost by knockout. Due to Baron having Iga beat Aoki without knocking him out until he was satisfied, Aoki's sustained severe injuries. Ippo went with everyone to take Aoki to the Kawai Hospital. Afterwards, Ippo congratulated Itagaki for making MVP in the tournament and believed that Aoki and Kimura would star over again and try again. However, Yagi told him otherwise, as Aoki and Kimura were pushed to their physical and mental limits from those fights, and believed Shinoda, who takes responsibility may also quit, coming to a conclusion that no matter what happens, it will be the Kamogawa gym's turning point.
Later, Kimura went to get Ippo and Itagaki to go with him to visit Aoki at the hospital. Along the way, Ippo, worried about Kimura retiring, told him that he shouldn't rush the decision, to which Kimura replied that he would let Aoki decide for him whether or not they both retire. When they get there, Aoki ultimately decided that he would keep boxing with Iga as his goal and Kimura would continue as a junior lightweight and aim for the title. Later, Ippo was called to Kamogawa's office, where Kamogawa offered him a shot at the world, with the goal of fighting WBA champion Ricardo. Kamogawa explained to him that Ricardo only accepts boxers deemed worthy and ranked first, so Ippo, ranked seventh would be facing the second ranker from Mexico, Alfredo González. The next day at his house, Itagaki informed Ippo that Volg has a title match set up.
Ippo learned from Itagaki that Volg's title match was against the IBF champion, which would take place in Las Vegas in a week. After learning that Volg was a stand-in since the original challenger hurt himself during training, Ippo wondered why Volg would accept the match when there was only a week to prepare. At the gym, Ippo found out from Kamogawa the reasoning behind Volg and Dankichi accepting the match and planned to cheer for him as he wants to see him become the world champion. A week later, Ippo encountered Sendō on his way to the gym. The two then head to the gym as Sendō expressed how he wanted to watch Volg's world title match with Ippo. However, because of the time difference between Las Vegas and Tokyo, the match would air on television the next day. The next day, Ippo went to the gym and began watching Volg's IBF title match against Mike Elliot with Sendō. During the match, the referee of Caesars Palace was doing a long count to help Elliot and then lifted him up for him to fight, allowing the fight to continue even though Volg should have won. Seeing that, Ippo became so frustrated that he slammed his fists down on a glass table, breaking it.
When the match ended in Volg's victory and him becoming the IBF world champion, Ippo was amazed. Sendō's fire in his heart was burning after watching the match, and wanted to spar against Ippo, who also felt the same way. They then sparred, which ended with Ippo getting knocked unconscious and being found by his gym mates. Ippo went to Kamogawa's office and was scolded for sparring without permission and also losing. Kamogawa informed him that he would be relinquishing his JBC featherweight belt to focus on the world title, while Itagaki would fight against someone for the vacant JBC featherweight title.
Since Ippo's customers at the fishing boat shop caught a lot of fish, Ippo was handed some. He decided to give some to Kumi, and, after hearing that Mashiba wasn't home, he helped her cook. After cooking, Ippo began to eat with Kumi and the two almost kissed before Mashiba came home and interrupted them. After dinner Mashiba was curious as to who gave Ippo his beaten face, which Ippo explained that it was Sendō and that Sendō has gotten stronger. When Ippo claimed that his reason for training to come home safely was for his mother who waits at home for him and wants to be able to walk home using his two feet, Mashiba told him that he has gotten weak. After a training session with Kamogawa, Ippo read the latest boxing magazine issue, discovering and showing Itagaki that Itagaki's JBC title match would be against the second ranker Imai.
Later at the Kamogawa gym, Ippo's gym mates warn him about Alfredo's left, which are hard to avoid because of the Mexican specific jabs. Being asked about his plan to go against Alfredo, Ippo believed it would be best using his own usual style. Later, Ippo asked Itagaki about Imai, and found out how Imai's fighting style has changed into a more reckless one consisting of duel exchanges. Ippo then mentioned to Itagaki how he noticed that Alfredo's long jabs and left uppercuts are similar to Ricardo's. While training on his weaving to go against Alfredo's longer jabs, Kamogawa introduced to him a new method of training with a glove on a stick that can extend, shrink, and bend.
Ippo met Alfredo at the weigh-in and gave his comment to the reporters that he sees himself as the challenger and wants to use his training and experience to see how effective he can fight at world level. The next day, Ippo asked his mother that if he wins the match and fights in a world title match next time, if she would come watch him, to which she answered that she would think about it. Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall for his match against Alfredo. With Itagaki's title match before his match, Ippo watched his match against Imai where Itagaki lost and Imai became the new JBC featherweight champion.
After focusing with Kamogawa, Ippo got to the ring and the match begins. After getting surprised by Alfredo's lefts that appear longer than he thought, he chose to go forward and use his usual pace, using head slips and the Peek-a-Boo style to close in. Alfredo had successful attempts to counter the strategy by using uppercuts, however, Ippo was able to dodge and throw a body blow which gets blocked at the end of the round one. In the second round, Ippo got Alfredo to the ropes after dodging his lefts and throwing body blows that get blocked. He rushed toward Alfredo and dodged a left that was a bait for his right. Knowing he couldn't dodge, Ippo stepped in and caused the right to hit his forehead. After another punch lands on his forehead, Ippo delivered a liver blow and began an in-fight with Alfredo which Ippo ended up taking more hits until the end of the second round.
In the third round, Ippo proceeded to chase Alfredo, who switched to out-boxing. When Ippo noticed Alfredo was going to send out a one-two and planned on dodging to the right to avoid the right and attack, Ippo was instead hit with a long left hook he was not expecting, making him go down and become unconscious. Ippo got back up after having trouble remembering how to get up. Ippo threw punches in place as ordered by Kamogawa until the third round ended. At the corner, Ippo was advised to diminish Alfredo's stamina over time to also make him lose his willpower as Ippo's stamina is the one thing he has better over Alfredo.
In the fourth round, Ippo questioned what he should do and which attack Alfredo would use since Alfredo never used a left hook before until the third round. He decided to push forward as always and try to hit Alfredo. Ippo failed to hit Alfredo while Alfredo was able to land many hits up to round five. After round five, Ippo asked Kamogawa for permission to use the Dempsey Roll, Kamogawa allows it. Ippo motioned the Dempsey Roll in front of Alfredo in round six. Ippo landed no clean hits, with Alfredo also trying to hit Ippo in the motion. Ippo tried to counter one of Alfredo's attacks with the Dempsey Roll, but Alfredo pressed his body onto Ippo's stopping the Dempsey Roll. A close ranged exchange followed and, after losing out at first, Ippo managed to hit Alfredo with a glancing uppercut which rattled his brain, causing Alfredo to go down soon thereafter. After Alfredo got up and Ippo's liver blow hit his guard, the sixth round ended. In the corner, Ippo and Kamogawa planned to end the match in the next round.
In the seventh round, the boxers enter yet another exchange which Ippo eventually won. However, as he went for the finishing blow, Alfredo landed a powerful right counter, sending Ippo to the canvas unconscious. Kamogawa ran into the ring to help Ippo and the referee ended the match, resulting in Ippo's second loss.
After Ippo gained consciousness in the ring, he realised he lost and left the ring. Leaving the venue, Ippo apologised to Kamogawa and was taken home by Aoki and Kimura.
The morning after he lost to Alfredo, Ippo went on a walk and reflected on the reason he lost being that he wasn't determined enough to win and made the same mistake as when he lost to Date, feeling that he disappointed the people around him. Takamura passed by Ippo, who apologises to him since Takamura was doing commentary for the match. As Takamura left, Kumi approached to check on Ippo. Ippo read the newspaper that Kumi found out Ippo lost on, making Ippo realise he really did lose. While walking together, Kumi asked Ippo why he can't stop boxing, adding that he has no duty to fight nor anything to protect anymore. Ippo answered that he was going back as he couldn't quit after betraying everyone's expectations, however, he does not want to worry his mother, so he promised to Kumi that it wold be his final challenge, the next time he loses, he would retire without regrets, never fighting in the ring again.
Ippo went to Umezawa's home to help him with his manga. After continuously messing up the edits, Umezawa asked Ippo to draw some straight lines on a paper. Ippo was unable to do that, so Umezawa had Ippo leave, thinking his hands were messing up since he hasn't fully recovered. Ippo went home and was sure the effects on his body are temporary while acknowledging that he would have to inherit the fishing boat business one day, but wants to continue because he loves boxing. The next day, Ippo went to the Kamogawa gym and informed Kamogawa that he had good results on his exam. Kamogawa asked why he lost, Ippo answered that he would not make any excuses as Alfredo was just stronger. Ippo was then told that he would be starting over and that he won't have a match for the foreseeable future, but would assist Takamura, who is having a WBA and WBC middleweight unification match. Ippo was then surprised to hear that before Takamura's main event match, Mashiba and Sendō would have matches.
While doing roadwork with Takamura, Ippo asked him if he has became weak. Takamura mentioned how Kamogawa was hurt due to Ippo not making any excuses as to why he lost. Ippo felt that he had no excuse, but Takamura believed that one needs to make excuses, as not having an excuse why one loses means that are ready to quit. Takamura drew a line on the ground between him and Ippo, with Takamura claiming that past the line was the world, where only monsters can survive, suggesting for him to not cross it and give Kamogawa false hope as Ippo should be satisfied by becoming the JBC champion while treating boxing as a hobby. As Takamura left at the other side of the line, Ippo was unable to cross the line and follow Takamura. Ippo later asked Takamura about his rushing to conquer the six weight classes, which Takamura answered about the length of time one can stay a boxer and how many matches one can have, seeing a unification match as a waste of time.
Later, Ippo went to the Roigal Hotel to attend Takamura's press conference with WBA middleweight champion Richard Bison. There, he met Mashiba and Sendō, having to stop their fighting. The next day, Ippo went to the Yokohama Arena to watch the matches with Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki. After watching Mashiba win his first OPBF lightweight title defence against Romeo, Ippo watched Sendō's match against Mexican champion José Nargo, which ended in Sendō's victory. Thinking about what Takamura said earlier, Ippo asked Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki if they make excuses when they lose. After they answer that they do, Ippo realised his reason for losing was that he did not have enough determination and confidence that boxers like Mashiba and Sendō have in their eyes. Ippo, Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki go to Takamura's ringside as Takamura arrived to the ring to fight Bison. After the second round, Takamura asked Ippo what he can do. Ippo answered "do his best". Ippo watched as Takamura won, making Takamura both the WBA and WBC middleweight champion.
At the Kamogawa gym, Ippo found out that Takamura was rewarded the people's honour award, however, it was retracted after Takamura caused a scene while naked. Later while doing roadwork with Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura, a discussion arose about how far could they go, which Ippo claimed that after watching his fight against Alfredo, he decided that he wants to see how close he can get and how far he can go and do his best. That night while thinking about a goal before sleeping, Ippo dreamed about Kumi working with him at the fishing boat. Later, during a "parade" for Takamura's win against Bison, Ippo was driving the vehicle carrying Takamura until Takamura kicked Aoki out of the car and Ippo got out to help him, leaving the vehicle to get wrecked. Ippo told Kumi the event and how Yamaguchi has been examining Takamura, leading Kumi to want to learn how to do massages. Ippo decided to let her meet Yamaguchi, however, when they get to the Yamaguchi Chiropractic, their trip was disrupted as a naked Takamura flies out the boarded window.
Later, Ippo was asked by Sendō to get two tickets for Miyata's seventh OPBF title defence. After receiving two tickets from Yagi, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall and met up with Sendō, who was waiting for his teacher. Ippo gave him the tickets and was shocked to hear Sendō wanting to fight Miyata or Alfredo to get to the world title match as fast as possible since Ippo's loss changed his plans. Ippo and Sendō watched Miyata's match against Luisito Ico that resulted in Miyata's victory. Since Sendō's teacher didn't make it time to watch the match, Sendō had Ippo go out and wait with her by the entrance while he gets his fist's bandage fixed.
When Ippo found the teacher, she thanked Ippo for being Sendō's friend and Ippo heard about Sendō growing up. Sendō came out of the venue and the three went to Coffee Shop Hearns. During the discussion between Sendō and his teacher, Sendō asked Ippo to hit him. Ippo was pressured into hitting Sendō, letting Sendō to be able to ask his teacher if she wants to live at his place. After hearing their conversation about Sendō going to Mexico and having the teacher watch over his grandmother while he is gone, Ippo had to run with Sendō and the teacher as the police were called on them due to the ruckus they caused. As Sendō left, Ippo told the teacher how he believed that Sendō was helping her due to her problems with her ex-husband and informed her the reason he was going to Mexico.
While training on his weaving and punching side to side, Ippo unintentionally rose up and punched, which surprised himself as he never thought that it was possible to do so. At the Kamogawa gym, he found Fujii doing mitt-training with Aoki. Ippo then partook in mitt-training with Fujii, knocking the mitt out of Fujii's hand. Fujii asked Ippo to show him his fist without the glove and wraps. After Ippo showed him his clenched fist, Fujii explained that Ippo's fists being big, flat, and hard are the key to his knockouts. After Shinoda entered the gym and Fujii and him told their story as boxers, Fujii asked Ippo if he was coming back, which Ippo answered he plans to. As Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki talk about how the Dempsey Roll comes from side to side, Ippo theorised what would happen if he added vertical motion to it. Ippo attempted to add vertical motion to it while training, however, he stopped himself as he heard his muscles tearing. Ippo realised Kamogawa had the same idea due to the training methods that he gave consisting of twisting motions. When Ippo returned home, Kumi was waiting for him. Kumi patched Ippo's injuries on his head from the training and reminded him about his promise to retire.
Ippo eavesdropped on a conversation in Kamogawa's office about Aoki and Kimura having matches. When Aoki claimed to have a new upgrade, Ippo excitedly burst into the room asking to see it. Ippo and Aoki got into the ring for a one round spar. Learning that it was a new variation of the Frog Punch, Ippo got ready to counter the technique, however, Ippo got knocked down anyway from the new |Bell Horn Frog Punch and claimed the new variation to be a shock. On the day of Aoki and Kimura's matches, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall. Before their matches began, Itagaki mentioned how Aoki and Kimura may retire if they lose their match, leading Ippo to dismiss any thought of them retiring, thinking that talking about retirement before a match brings bad luck. Ippo got annoyed when Takamura appeared behind him and Itagaki and talked about how Aoki and Kimura should retire. Ippo watched as Kimura's match ended in a draw and Aoki wins by knockout. After their match, Ippo watched Iga's JBC lightweight title match against champion Sōshi Ōshima, who Ippo noted how Sōshi reminded him of Hayami. After Iga won and became the new champion and Takamura mentioned how one should continue chasing after their goals, Ippo began thinking about how he lost sight of his goal and wondered if he even wanted the world title.
At the gym, Ippo had a spar request from junior lightweight boxer Matsuura. When they sparred, Ippo took some hits until he got close enough to motion the Dempsey Roll. Instead of the usual left and right hooks, Ippo threw an uppercut from below, breaking Matsuura's guard. Ippo continued attacking with the New Dempsey Roll, hitting Matsuura with left and right hooks and uppercuts until Matsuura leaned on the ropes, making Ippo miss an uppercut. Matsuura's coach soon stopped the spar to prevent his boxer from any further injuries. After Ippo was scolded by Kamogawa for missing the uppercut, he felt that he has a long way to go for the New Dempsey Roll.
While continuing Kamogawa's training menu, he was approached by Kamogawa. Kamogawa revealed to him that his New Dempsey Roll would be neither entirely horizontal or vertical, but diagonally, and if his opponent backs away, he would let his momentum carry him forward to hit them with a Gazelle Punch. Ippo tested the new idea out and was amazed how smooth it was when he shifts his weight. Ippo continued his training with Kamogawa, with added additions to train the New Dempsey Roll. After a training session, Ippo went up to the gym's rooftop where he meets Takamura. Takamura asked if Ippo can deliver and if he can carry the kind of burden to live up to expectations. Ippo answered that since his next loss would be his last, he would give it everything he has.
Ippo was tasked to spar against world ranker and junior featherweight boxer Ryūji Nagumo. When the spar began, Ippo was able to see Nagumo's punches, but could not dodge, resulting in Ippo falling down. Kamogawa got into the ring and stopped the spar. After leaving the ring, Ippo believed that his headgear was the cause of him not seeing the punches at the end while he was starting weaving. Back at home, when Ippo tried to draw a straight line, but couldn't, he figured he must still be hurt from his match against Alfredo. Ippo tried to convince himself that he is not broken, as he wants to continue training together with Kamogawa and live up to his hopes.
At Kamogawa's office, Kamogawa and Yagi had suspicions that Ippo is punch drunk, so they have Ippo try to draw a straight line of a piece of paper. After drawing a straight line, the suspicions were still not cleared. Kamogawa, suspecting Ippo still had cumulative damage, banned Ippo from the gym for one month. Ippo decided to use the time away from the gym to continue his training outside for his New Dempsey Roll, with the goal of coming back to the gym with the technique. While training, Ippo was told not to by Itagaki, as Kamogawa did not want him to. Ippo, not wanting to stop training, was introduced to a new way of training by Mari: weight straps for his wrists and ankles. Ippo was advised by Yamaguchi to move slowly if he can't sit still, which Ippo proceeded to do while wearing his weights.
Ippo went bowling with Kumi and then his gym mates while wearing his weights, using the way he throws the bowling balls as a training method for the New Dempsey Roll while also doing everything, including eating, slowly. With the one month ban over, Ippo head toward the gym slowly. When he got there, Kamogawa had Ippo take off his weights and get warmed up. After being tested by drawing a straight line, walking in a straight line and partook in a mitt training session with Kamogawa, Ippo passed and was allowed back in the gym and do training. Ippo went to Umezawa's home and told him details about why he was drawing were not straight and answered boxing-related questions since Umezawa's fire serialised manga is going to be about boxing. After receiving his brain imaging results, he informed Kumi that everything looked normal and sent the results to Kamogawa.
After Ippo received tickets to Nagumo's WBA world title match, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan where he meets Miyata, who was assigned to sit next to him to watch the match. Ippo daydreamed himself fighting and losing to Miyata. After annoying Miyata with his actions, he was asked what happened during his spar against Nagumo. Ippo questioned Miyata since he also lost to Nagumo, and believed that he and Miyata should get along since they no longer have a match in process. As Nagumo's match against the champion began, Ippo realised Miyata was holding back on Nagumo during the spar since Miyata was able to read Nagumo's movements against the champion, while Ippo really believed Nagumo could be champion. After Nagumo lost to the champion, Miyata asked Ippo if he was broken. Ippo reassured him that he was fine and that he would train more before his coma-back match for the next stage.
Later, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall and watched Itagaki win by decision, Kimura get a draw, and Aoki win by knockout. After seeing those matches, Ippo desired to return to the ring and show off his New Dempsey Roll. Ippo walked Kimura home since he had the most damage. Along the way, Ippo mentioned how he believed Aoki could get a title match against Iga and that Kimura should move up a weight class so he can keep winning, however, Kimura disagreed. Later, Ippo learned that his come-back match would be soon and would be the semi-final of Takamura's WBA/WBC middleweight title defence. While doing roadwork with Takamura, Ippo expressed how he believes no one can understand Takamura's perspective and thinks Takamura should stop being irritated and take things one step at a time or people would stop supporting him. Ippo asked if Takamura is lonely, to which Ippo was moved after hearing Takamura view the point he and other world champions see when they reach the top as "extraordinary". Ippo believed that he may not be able to do it, but Takamura suggested for him to not think, but go for it.
Ippo, following his ten month break against Alfredo, was shown a recording of his next opponent, Antonio Guevara from the Philippines, becoming the new Filipino featherweight champion after winning against Malcolm Gedo. Ippo, after finding out Antonio is a southpaw, asked Itagaki how to fight southpaws and came to a conclusion to use his right more than his left and to keep moving left with his foot on the outside. After winning in a spar with three southpaws, Ippo went training with Kamogawa, who lectured Ippo on his New Dempsey Roll's timing. Shinoda explained to Ippo, that it takes a great amount of determination to catch his punches and it is hard for Kamogawa to lecture him. Ippo and Antonio met at the signing ceremony and shook hands. Ippo noticed of Antonio's natural instinct to use his left hand while shaking hands.
On the day of the match, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan and when he went to the ring, the match began. Antonio kept Ippo out of range for a while, however, Ippo slowly was able to close in on Antonio, punching him in the face with a right, causing him to fall. However, since he negated the power by swaying back, Antonio got up. After dodging a right straight, Ippo began his New Dempsey Roll, but Antonio fell after a couple hits before it started and a slip was declared. When the fight continued, Ippo got clinched, which broke after Ippo landed a liver blow to get out of the clinch. The first round then ended.
In the second round, Ippo got out-ranged and his body began visibly steaming. Feeling lighter than usual, he jet towards Antonio too hard and loses balance when the latter touched him. Ippo hit Antonio with punches that draw blood even when blocked and downed Antonio once before the round ended. After Ippo declared a win to Kamogawa, the third round began. Ippo stepped into range as practised, but tripped over Antonio's foot in the process and was sent rolling on the mat, causing a slip to be declared. After getting up, both fighters exchange hits until Ippo was at his perfect in-fight range. Antonio threw slight hook that caused Ippo to fall and roll over, making the referee declaring a down. Ippo got up and angrily throws a flurry of punches toward Antonio as he blocks until the third round ended.
When round four began, Ippo managed to step in, but was caught by Antonio's foot, with the latter hitting Ippo with a right to the head, causing a down. When he got up, Ippo continued attacking. Ippo attempted to use the New Dempsey Roll, however, his knee touches the mat, causing a down to be declared. The fight continued, and both boxers exchange punches with Antonio going down two times.
On Antonio's second down, Ippo gave a look to Kamogawa as if he wanted to say something. Ippo rushed Antonio to a corner, Ippo then weaved in ready with the New Dempsey Roll, with thoughts in his head knowing that his body changed and might not be able to go with Kamogawa anymore despite wanting to continue with him. In position with the New Dempsey Roll, Ippo threw a left uppercut that gets countered by Antonio's left. With that, Ippo fell, ending the fight. Ippo sat up with Kamogawa at his side telling him that it was over. Ippo bowed to the crowd as he left the ring with a second straight lost.
Ippo went to the waiting room as Takamura left for his match. Ippo watched Takamura win his match against Keith Lycaon on the television screen. Afterwards, Ippo walked home with Kamogawa, telling him his favourite parts of his boxing journey and that he enjoyed boxing. When he came home, he reflected on how he never seen Kamogawa with a heartwarming face and laughing. He told his mother that he is home before going to bed. Later when Kumi visited, she recommended a doctor to examine Ippo for the Punch Drunk syndrome. He went to the doctor and tests reveal Ippo was healthy and could return to the ring after time off. Ippo went to Kamogawa and Yagi to announce the test results. Kamogawa asked for Ippo's conclusion, the latter announced that he will retire because of the risk of being punch drunk if he continues and will instead help with his family business. With the announcement of his retiring, Ippo said his farewells to his former gym mates. Takamura asked of Ippo's treasure in his adventure, and Ippo replied that there are too many to hold.
Two months later after retiring, Ippo helped Umezawa with his manga and weird him out when he perfected the edits. Though Umezawa suggested that he could be a pro boxer again since his hands aren't shaky, Ippo felt the need to commit to living a life without boxing to make sure he doesn't worry others. Later, Shinoda visited Ippo's home and asks Ippo to become a second, as the numbers of seconds at the Kamogawa Boxing Gym has fallen since Kamogawa is hospitalised, Ippo told Shinoda to let him think about it. Later, while Ippo was fishing, he told Kumi that he would return to the ring as a second to help the gym, not knowing he could be helpful again. Ippo then began training Kimura as his second until the day of his match arrived.
At Kōrakuen Hall, as Kimura's match was about to begin, Ippo went to scout on his opponent. However, he saw Ryūichi Hayami getting ready for his match. Hayami informed Ippo that he will create a legend. Ippo watched Hayami's match and was shocked when he loses. When Kimura's match began, Ippo's inexperience as a second showed, as he accidentally threw a chair into the crowd after the first round, then the next round, he placed the chair sideways. However, Ippo gave Kimura the advice he needed, resulting in Kimura and Ippo winning the match.
Ippo celebrated his first win outside the Kōrakuen Hall, which irritated Hayami. After saying that he would become a legend and win for the people cheering, he asked why Ippo demoted himself as a "support role" and why he won't return to the ring. Ippo replied he simply has no reason to. Kimura asked if Ippo is okay with being a "support role", however Ippo never thought of what Kamogawa did as a being a "support role". At home, Ippo had a conversation with his mother how he believed that becoming second, walking next to Kamogawa and training boxers would remove the bad taste he left Kamogawa when leaving.
Ippo continued being a second, helping Aoki win his match. Itagaki then had his match with Ippo as his second, hoping to get praised, but by the end of the first round, Ippo criticised him. Ippo continued to criticise him throughout the match until he won by decision. Acknowledging that being a second was hard, Ippo decided to scout someone for the gym. Ippo then passed by the riverbank and saw a group of bullies picking on a kid. In response, he went down in an attempt to stop them.
Prisoner to his conscious, Ippo decided to defuse the situation by performing a dogeza after knocking down one of the bullies. The leader, Taihei, told the others to back off, knowing they would lose from feeling Ippo's strength. Ippo saw reminiscent qualities in the bullied child, Teru, that reminded him of himself and upon seeing this, he tried to convince him to become a boxer. Ippo had it in his mind that Teru had amazing punching power, mostly due to the similarities between them when Ippo was a student. At the gym, he managed to get Teru to draw a picture of Taihei, which looked almost identical to him in stark contrast to Takamura's attempt to draw Umezawa. This would be short-lived as Teru, comically, had no punching power whatsoever. Afterwards, Ippo took Teru to Umezawa, where Teru would meet Umezawa and become his assistant.
Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch Miyata's eighth OPBF featherweight title defence match. During the fight, he met Imai, who believed that Miyata is not fit to be a pro due to Miyata's poor performance. Ippo was shocked when he heard Imai state that the reason for Miyata's struggle is because Ippo is no longer boxing. Ippo was happy seeing Miyata win the decision, Imai, however, told Ippo that that was not the state that he wants to fight Miyata in and for Ippo to take responsibility for his actions. Later on, while fishing with Kumi, Ippo explained how seeing Miyata fight, he became just another cheering fan, despite Kumi's previous beliefs of Miyata taking Ippo back to boxing.
Ippo was asked by Taihei to teach him how to box. At first, Ippo denied Taihei his request but then forced him to perform several tasks such as apologising to Teru and vowing to never use his fists for violence again. As a final test, Ippo had Taihei catch five leaves in three days in order for Ippo to teach him boxing. After Taihei completed the test, Ippo took Taihei under his wing and began training him. When Taihei requested to start training by sparring, Ippo went to the Kamogawa gym for boxing gear. When he arrived at the gym he was asked by Kamogawa, who he has not seen in a long time, to step in the ring for mitt-training in order to prepare himself for Takamura, who was in serious training. To Kamogawa's surprise, when he told Ippo to speed up, he was unable to catch Ippo's faster punches. After the session, Ippo received Kamogawa's old mitts that were used the first time he caught Ippo's punches. Upon his departure, Ippo told Kamogawa that he will be back.
After training with Taihei for a while, Ippo went home to rest before heading back out for more training with Taihei. It began to rain as Ippo was informed by Teru that Taihei had done something and Umezawa went to stop him. Upon arrival under the bridge, Ippo witnessed Taihei beating up students. Ippo, in great shock, tried to reason with Taihei but was rejected and had the mitts he borrowed from Kamogawa knocked out of his hands, dirtying them. Ippo broke down as a result of this as he felt Kamogawa had been disrespected. Filled with emotions, Ippo approached Taihei and threw a slap at Taihei whilst wearing a face that Umezawa would describe as "not the face of a human". The slap resulted in knocking out Taihei, which Ippo soon after regretted doing, lamenting that he had used his hands for harm. Umezawa had a delinquent watch over Taihei as he brought Ippo to the Chūka Soba, with Teru following along. After discussing with Umezawa, Aoki, and Teru, Ippo decided to turn himself in.
After a failed attempt of turning himself in to the police and a week had passed, he decided to shave his head bald. Ippo went to the Kamogawa gym in order to apologise to Kamogawa and to expel him from the gym. Kamogawa, however, had Ippo two punishments. First was to clean the gym for three months. The second one was to train the two bald newcomers, Taihei, and Kintarō Kaneda. At first Ippo denied their entry as they made him succumb to anger. However, when Taihei told him that it wasn't anger, but Ippo scolding him, Ippo allowed them to join. Upon them joining, Ippo also learned that Taihei is Aoki's little brother, Taihei Aoki. When Ippo went fishing with Kumi, he showed her his bald head, which reminded her of "Baldychu".
While training Taihei and Kintarō, they stop by the tree that Taihei did the leaf test under. When Taihei admitted that he cheated the leaf test, Ippo assured Taihei to just pour his heart and soul into boxing. After Ippo told a boxing lesson to his pupils, Miyata appeared before them.
When Miyata revealed himself to Ippo, Taihei, and Kintarō, he asked about the arm weights that Ippo was wearing despite not training. Ippo replied that it is just a habit. Ippo then requested to not fixate on him anymore, to stop the harsh training as a featherweight as he is never coming back to the ring. Miyata, aware of his own struggles, claimed to switch, only depending on Ippo's next answer. When Miyata asked who told him he was Punch Drunk, Ippo could not reply. Miyata then walked away, accepting Ippo's silent answer and deciding that whatever lies ahead will be his decision.
After working at the boat, Ippo returned and, while walking to the Kōrakuen Hall, found out from Taihei and Kintarō that Kumi was irritated earlier. They then see the match poster of Mashiba's match against Iga, revealing the reason for Kumi's irritation. When Mashiba arrived next to Ippo, Ippo warned him that the opponent he specifically chose, Iga, is strong. Mashiba responded by nudging Ippo's shoulder with his own, leading Ippo to believe that that was the reason he chose Iga to be his opponent. Inside, Ippo introduced Taihei and Kintarō to the ring, where a 4-rounder match is happening. When Taihei remembered seeing Aoki here being made into a laughing stock, Ippo disagreed, telling him that Aoki was a pro, as he got the crowd riled up. Ippo explained to Taihei to watch closely at the main event, as Mashiba's opponent, Iga, is his brother's objective. Ippo noted how Iga is a strong enough hurdle for Mashiba to show that he is ready for the world, remembering Fujii's report on how Baron said that Mashiba has three weaknesses.
Ippo watched Mashiba's match against Iga with his two students. When Iga was trying to go in his own range, he used the Peek-a-Boo Style to dodge and block the Flicker Jabs. Ippo realised Iga's style is just like his and successfully predicted that Iga would get hit by an uppercut. After round one ended, Ippo witnessed Baron smacking Iga in the face. As Taihei and Kintarō became angry, Ippo guessed that it is how they won their matches. Ippo then told them that he got slapped by Kamogawa once in a match, but it was for encouragement, while Baron's reason is for winning. Ippo watched as Mashiba overcame his three weaknesses and defeat Iga, along with his coach announcing the relinquishment of the OPBF lightweight belt to move on to the world his next match. Because Mashiba claimed that Iga was short one weakness, Aoki and Kimura were trying to figure it out. Ippo mentioned that it was Miyata's ability to make Mashiba fearful. Ippo also learned the reason why he lost against Alfredo and Antonio after watching Miyata and Mashiba's recent match.
Because of his recent discovery of why he lost, Ippo went to the Kamogawa gym to do a review. Kamogawa found Ippo punching the sandbag and questioned as to why he was doing that. Ippo explained that after he lost to Date and learned the Dempsey Roll, he lost his left punch, which Miyata and Mashiba used whenever they were in trouble and he used a strategy with the Dempsey Roll that went against Kamogawa's teachings of "hit before getting hit", making him realise that losing was inevitable. However, Kamogawa thought otherwise and told him how he set aside his left to achieve victory with his Dempsey Roll. Ippo expressed how he realised he should use his jab and then his Dempsey Roll, getting thoughts of returning, but was stopped by Kamogawa, who wanted Ippo to teach his two students everything he knows as he could become a great leader. Ippo acknowledged that Kamogawa was praising him instead of scolding him because he is no longer a boxer, angrily hitting the sandbag.
Later, Ippo and his two students went to the Roigal Hotel to attend Takamura's press conference for his second WBA and seventh WBC middleweight title defence against Michael Goat, where Takamura announced he would move from the middleweight to the super middleweight class after the match. Afterwards, Ippo explained that he, Taihei, and Kintarō would act as support with Kamogawa, Yagi, and Shinoda, and ordered his students to no take their eyes off Takamura for even a second. The next day, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan and stayed near the ringside with Takamura's seconds and his two students as Takamura went up against Goat. After watching Takamura win with skilful lefts, he believed that that should be how he throws lefts, realising his learning will never stop as long as he is involved with boxing. At home, Ippo reviewed how he used to use lefts and how he used to only wait for a chance to step forward by dodging and slipping in, which he did more when he learned the Dempsey Roll and was punished for it in his match against Kojima. After his self-reflection, he noticed how deep boxing is. Later while doing business at the fishing boat, he revealed his usual fully grown head of hair to his customers, telling them that he's back.
Ippo trained with Taihei and Kintarō by having them do exercise suited for a six rounder even though they haven't debuted yet and a training method he researched called the "Numbering System". With the Kamogawa gym members interested in trying the Numbering System out, Ippo shouted numbers out for them until they got angry due to Ippo only calling out a left jab. Overhearing how Takamura went overseas after defeating Goat, Ippo was reminded how Sendō declared his intention of going overseas to Mexico, wondering what came of that. Later, Ippo found out Sendō went to Mexico without telling his gym from Mari. Since Mari and Sendō's gym does not know the reason he left, Ippo told Mari how he possibly went to Mexico to meet Alfredo. Later, Ippo was shown a news article about Sendō and Hoshi meeting the Scamaras Brothers.
After receiving an invitation to a class reunion from Umezawa, Ippo went to the reunion at the Kemuri Izakaya to see his former classmates from seven years ago. Upon entering, Ippo was recognised as the class hero and the Japanese champion. Ippo met Aikawa while there, and was surprised to hear she watched him fight, but as ashamed to find out she watched the only three fights he lost in. After the party, Ippo walked Aikawa home. As they walked, Aikawa expressed her love to Ippo and wished to see Ippo win a match. Though Ippo reminded her that he retired, she asked if he had a reason to return, would he come back, however, Ippo had no answer. Ippo was handed a note with her number and email address before she left. Ippo reflected on how he really hasn't changed at all despite wanting to be reborn when he became a boxer, and knew that he hasn't found his answer yet on how it feels to be strong.
Later, with the Date gym gym hosting a sparring tournament for new boxers that haven't had a pro debut yet, Ippo took Taihei and Kintarō there for them to spar. There, Ippo met Date, Okita, Kobashi, and Oda who also are trainers seeking to let their students partake in the tournament. After Taihei and Kintarō easily lost, Fujii entered the gym and revealed that Sendō downed Ricardo in Mexico and that Sendō and Alfredo would be fighting in three months, with the winner earning the right to challenge for the world title. While Ippo was excited to hear the news, he was left speechless when Yūji reminded him of when he said that it was impossible for him to avenge Date and take on Ricardo as he was then. Ippo left without replying after Oda wanted to know why he couldn't fight anymore.
At the Kamogawa gym, Sendō arrived from Mexico and asked Ippo to lend him strength to go against Alfredo by explaining his punches angles and timing. Ippo explained the punch quality and Alfredo's change in personality when the match begins, which he noted to be similar to Sendō. When Sendō expressed how he wants to face the Metztli Alfredo, Ippo mentioned how dangerous it would be, however Alfredo would be more susceptible to counters due to the wider punches. Wanting to explain better, he decided to show Sendō by doing a mitt practise session. After he felt Sendō's punches with the mitts, they switched and Ippo threw a punch at Sendō's mitts, emulating Alfredo's speed and angle, which knocked the mitts off Sendō's hands. Afterwards, Ippo saw Sendō off as he went back to Osaka and then noticed that Sendō left his belongings at the gym. Ippo sent the belongings back to Sendō along with a letter. Later, Ippo informed Kumi about Sendō's visit and how he went to the class reunion and saw Aikawa, who gave him a note, however, he revealed to her that he dropped it while shadowboxing, losing it.
Later, Takamura came back from his travels and Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki haves matches before Sendō's match with Alfredo. Worried about Kimura's weight management, Ippo went to Kimura's home and discovered that he was having trouble with his weight management. Ippo began focusing on Kimura and help him with his weight management by going to a sauna and eventually resorting to shaving the hair off of Kimura's whole body and head to make the weight, with Ippo also shaving his own hair. After Kimura barely passed the last weight check, Ippo revealed a strategy for the match that would make him go all out in the early rounds due to Kimura's low stamina. Ippo's strategy consisted of a repeated barrage of Dragonfish Blows. When Kimura's match against Junpei Yoshimoto began, Ippo was his second for the match, where his strategy helped Kimura in the first round and Kimura won by knockout in the second round with a reverse Dragonfish Blow. Ippo was then the second for Aoki and Itagaki's match where Itagaki won by decision and Aoki won by knockout.
After his recent wins as a second, Ippo realised how grateful he is to Kamogawa when he supported him when he was a boxer, wanting to thank him. When he went to the Kamogawa gym and saw Kamogawa, Ippo mentioned how he learned how to lose weight and add muscle from books in many different ways. Seeing that Ippo wanted to continue studying, he suggested for Ippo to get a passport and go to Mexico for the best materials on boxing.
Ippo informed Kumi, Taihei, and Kintarō that he was leaving for Mexico with many motivations on going. When Ippo arrived to Mexico, he got into trouble after bumping into someone before getting saved by the Scamaras Brothers and putting on a wrestling mask to trick everyone into thinking he was a wrestler together with the brothers. After meeting up with Sendō, Ippo went with him to the Arena México and was delighted to meet Alfredo and Ricardo. After the press conference, Ippo ate with Sendō at a restaurant and was shocked to see that the waiters that were Alfredo fans put a bug in Sendō's salad, warning him about it.
At the Lucha Lucha Gym, Sendō wanted to spar to work off calories and Ippo was pushed into doing a no-contact spar with him. While Sendō intended to hit Ippo, Ippo dodged all of his punches while throwing held back punches. Sendō became irritated and shoved Ippo, making him lose balance. Sendō threw a Smash that Ippo barely dodged, making the punch hit his headgear as Kazuhiro Yanaoka and the Naniwa coach arrived and immediately stopping the spar.
The next day, Ippo went to the Arena México to watch Sendō and Alfredo's match with one of the Scamaras Brothers, Milo Scamaras. As Sendō was making his entrance, Ippo was confused as to why the locals were cheering for him, learning from Milo how Mexicans love tigers. Being asked by Milo about who he thinks will win, Ippo couldn't make a prediction, but deemed their ability as equal, Alfredo being precise, and Sendō having more destructive power. After the first round, Milo was worried that Sendō would be going home after not being able to do anything, however, Ippo disagreed, expressing how Sendō is someone who is unpredictable and can make the impossible possible. During the second round, Ippo explained to Milo that Sendō is getting used to Alfredo's punches, and that, besides his raw power, his animistic sixth sense and ability to adapt are things that made him a world ranker. As Alfredo was cornering Sendō with attacks, Ippo mentioned to Milo how Sendō was prepared for this, remembering his motto of sticking to a strong opponent is something he loves, and believes that Sendō has never changed from the moment he met him.
During round three, the audience began stomping their feet, which Ippo compared it to the Kōrakuen Hall's lallapallooza. When Milo noticed Alfredo's face changing despite Sendō missing his punches, Ippo noted that Sendō is doing a lot and slowly closing the gap, concluding that he sees Sendō doing his best, while also being jealous, reminiscing about being back to the ring. During round four, the referee stopped the match as the taping on one of Sendō's gloves came loose. When Ippo noticed Hoshi fixing the tape and purposely going slow to buy time, Ippo yelled out to not stall and cool Sendō down because Sendō was already fired up, prompting Hoshi to quickly fix it. Ippo continued to watch the match as Sendō defeats Alfredo in the fourth round by knockout. After watching the match, Ippo did not understand how Sendō was able to withstand the counter that he lost to when he fought Alfredo before, concluding that the match was a good learning experience and that he still has much left to learn.
Ippo watched as the main event began with Ricardo's 22nd WBA featherweight title defence match against former WBC featherweight champion, Billy McCallum. Before the match began. Ippo explained to Milo about McCallum's background, and how one can tell who will win a match the moment they throw their first swing, with a boxer's shadowboxing being able to give a hint. After being shocked at seeing McCallum's sharp punches in his shadowboxing and how McCallum is not showing any fear towards Ricardo, Ippo became worried that Ricardo could be in trouble. Ippo was breath taken from seeing Ricardo's perfectly natural stance and even more breath taken that McCallum is fearless next to Ricardo with his guard down in a Detroit Style stance, explaining the style to Milo. As Ippo watched Ricardo being unusually offensive in the first round, he was confused and wondered why Ricardo is acting like that. While seeing Ricardo land hits on McCallum after breaking his guard, Ippo thought that it must feel lonely not having anyone to be able to draw out his true abilities and strength. After Ricardo defeated McCallum by knockout in the first round, Ippo realised how he grows because of the opponents he fights while Ricardo has never experienced it due to having trivial matches. He at first thought it would be lonely, however, he remembered when Takamura told him that the view isn't lonely, but extraordinary, wondering what view Ricardo sees. Ippo began to leave the audience area with Milo to group up with Sendō for the victory party.
Later, Ippo, Sendō and his group, and the Scamaras Brothers arrive to Mexico's airport. Sendō gloated to Ippo on how he won by knockout against Alfredo, who defeated Ippo by knockout, implying that he is stronger than Ippo. Ippo responded that it makes sense, making Sendō frustrated that Ippo doesn't care about being one-upped. Ippo worryingly asked Sendō if he will face against Ricardo. Sendō revealed that he will once his broken fist heals, reassuring him that he will figure something out against Ricardo. Sendō left with his group after thanking the Scamaras Brothers for everything. When Ippo heard the brothers tell Sendō goodbye in Spanish, Ippo was confused. Ippo learned common Spanish sayings from Milo before leaving after thanking him. On the plane to Japan, Ippo thanked Mexico as he feels that he has learned a lot.
When he got back to Japan, he gave Kumi, Takamura, Aoki, Kimura, Itagaki, Taihei, Kintarō, Kamogawa and Yagi masks. During his visit to the Kamogawa gym, when Kimura took off his Kappa mask, everyone, including Ippo laughed as Kimura already has a Kappa hairstyle, which made Ippo feel at home. That night, Ippo went to see Kamogawa and Yagi at the gym's office. When Kamogawa asked Ippo if his trip to Mexico was of any use, Ippo answered that he sees why Mexico is the kingdom of the lighter weight classes and that Sendō was amazing, knowing that he will be able to figure something out against Ricardo. Ippo mentioned to Kamogawa that on the way home to Japan, he fought Ricardo a hundred times in his head, and, after the 95th time, he decided that if he took him to a close range punching match, there was some hope as Ricardo would have an opening for him to push through. Kamogawa asked Ippo about a 101st time, but Ippo noted that if one thinks hard about it, even in a match where everyone thinks it is impossible to win, if they have one hint, they can open a path, adding that the opponent is human, so as long as one keeps moving their body and head, nothing is impossible. As Ippo concluded that that is what he learned and plans to tell new boxers in the present and future, he thanked Kamogawa before leaving.
At the Kamogawa gym, while Ippo did mitt practise with Taihei while using his numbering system, Ippo mistakenly blocked a six (right hook) like a three (left hook), causing the mitt to hit his face and his nose to bleed. After Taihei apologised and Ippo plugged his nose to stop the bleeding, Ippo watched Takamura hit the mitts with Kamogawa, noticing something is different. When Shinoda noted how impressive Kamogawa is by catching Takamura's punches, Ippo agreed with how divine Kamogawa's skills are, wondering if he too can become like that with time. Ippo also noticed how Takamura did not join in when Kimura and Shinoda were fooling around. Aoki and Kimura revealed to Ippo that Takamura is going to challenge the WBC super middleweight title. With Ippo excited to hear the news, Yagi told him that it will take place in Japan and gave him the champion's profile, which was in English. With the help of Itagaki, Ippo managed to translate it to Japanese for the gym members that the champion's name is Keith Dragon, along with his boxing information. When Ippo came across "Heaven's Cannon" and "Ground Cannon", he becomes confused. Yagi suggested for him to look at Dragon's hobby, which turned out to be mahjong. Ippo asked Yagi if Dragon is good at mahjong, to which Yagi revealed that his skills earned him the nickname "Manhattan's Demon King". When Takamura asked the gym members who the certain people are that will never be able to become a world champion, he lectured that they are ones who never try to challenge for a world title. When Kamogawa added how there is a bit of luck and being blessed by good fortune included in becoming a world champion, Ippo remembered how Dragon is known for being beloved by the goddess of good fortune, making Dragon a dangerous opponent for Takamura.
That night, after cleaning and turning off the lights at the Kamogawa gym, Ippo went to Kamogawa's office where Shinoda asked Ippo how Kintarō and Taihei's training has been going. Yagi also informed Ippo that they have been talking about letting them do their pro test and debut, requesting to know their weight classes. Ippo replied that they are not old enough to debut yet, but will be soon, and he will think of what weight class to put them in. Ippo mentioned how lucky the gym is to have Yagi negotiate with Dragon on coming to Japan, however, Yagi noted that Dragon was happy to be able to play mahjong with the Japanese, making there to be no negotiations to be had. As Yagi noted how he wanted Takamura to fight overseas, but Takamura stubbornly wants to fight in Japan, Yagi points out how he also wants the gym to have a match at the Tokyo Dome. Kamogawa agreed, as it would be a dream come true for him. Ippo believed that it would be his dream too as a second to see his boxer make it to the biggest venue there is while bringing his hopes and expectations with them. Ippo asked them how long Ricardo will stay as a featherweight and why he chooses to stay, since he has defended it many times and it has been said that Ricardo has no competition left at featherweight. Kamogawa answered that the only one who probably knows is Ricardo himself. Yagi offered Ippo to come with him, Shinoda, and Kamogawa to eat dinner as fellow staff members, however, Ippo declined, as his mother is most likely waiting for him with dinner already. Walking away from the gym and reflecting how his current dream is for Taihei and Kintarō to debut and win, Ippo approached the line that Takamura made, contemplating how he has never understood Takamura, wondering why he wouldn't fulfil Kamogawa's dream of debuting overseas.
Later, while Ippo was doing roadwork with Taihei and Kintarō early in the morning, he informed the duo that they will take their pro test when their birthdays pass. Ippo spotted Takamura and mentioned how he must be full of spirit now that his match is set up. Takamura noted that it is only the super middleweight class, grumbling that he can't afford to waste any more time since he is behind schedule. Wanting to know why Takamura is in such a rush, Ippo wondered if he should ask him now. After thinking about how he also doesn't know much about Takamura's personal life, Ippo was about to ask him questions before stopping himself as he believed that Takamura's back is saying to watch him, and that what he wants to know is something that can't be put into words. As Takamura wanted to know if Ippo needed to say anything to him, Ippo revealed that Kamogawa and Yagi has a dream of having a fight at the Tokyo Dome. With Takamura motivated to have Ippo and him take Kamogawa to the Tokyo Dome, Ippo reminded Takamura that he isn't a boxer anymore, but Takamura told him that it doesn't matter how he gets there. Ippo followed Takamura as he did his roadwork, reflecting that Takamura makes him feel like there is nothing impossible to accomplish.
Later at the Kamogawa gym, when Takamura informed his gym mates of the bad omens he had at the Yamaguchi Chiropractic, Ippo suggested for him to go get an Omikuji at the shrine he goes to. Takamura declined at first before going with Ippo and Itagaki to the shrine to get an Omikuji. While Itagaki was worried that Takamura may pull an Omikuji that isn't good luck, Ippo reassured him that the bad luck ones are one in a billion. After Ippo pulled a future luck, Takamura pulls a worse luck Omikuji. As Takamura ran away, Itagaki wondered if it is one of "those", to which Ippo asked what he means by that. Itagaki explained that while he isn't superstitious, he feels as if there is a cause for Takamura having bad luck and that him having his match decided against Dragon may have shown that his luck has reached it's limit, as facing a man beloved by the goddess of luck may be making Takamura's luck go down. Ippo became worried when Itagaki told him how he wonders if Takamura will get affected more directly as the match continues to get closer, with things such as a traffic accident, however, when he sees Ippo get worried, he claims that it was just a joke. After asking Miyazaki for something to improve one's fortune, Ippo got a variety of good luck items and showed them to Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki, wanting them to be placed at the lucky corners of the gym to purify the evil around them. Kimura suggested to believe in Takamura's strength, however, Ippo wanted to do what ever he can to ease the anxiety, as that is one of his responsibilities as one of the gym's staff. As the gym members grabbed the good luck items, Aoki asked Ippo how he should give Takamura the voodoo doll since he will not accept it as he isn't superstitious. Ippo revealed that he already slipped one in his pocket a few days ago.
When Ippo learned from Yagi that Takamura was going to the hospital in an ambulance due to a traffic accident, Ippo and Yagi hurried to the Tokyo Metropolitan Hirokane Hospital. There, they were relieved to see Takamura unhurt, as they learned that Takamura saved a boy from getting hit by an incoming vehicle, and he was in the hospital for the boy since he cracked his ribs while saving him. While doing roadwork, Ippo informed Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki of the event and wondered if the bad things that keep happening to Takamura are really just a coincidence. After watching Takamura defeat his sparring partner, Ippo found Takamura running water on his right leg. Ippo figured that his right leg must be injured from jumping off the hood of the vehicle while saving the boy, which Takamura requested for him to not tell Kamogawa about it. Ippo mentioned to Takamura that he has noticed that the weight control is still affecting him despite moving up a weight class, and his movements are dull, advising him to focus on recovering. When Takamura showed him some shredded material that he found in his pocket after the accident, Ippo realised that it is the remains of the voodoo doll that he put into Takamura's pocket, thankful that it protected him. Ippo wrapped Takamura's leg with a bandage with sutra writing on it. Later, Ippo waited outside Takamura's house in order to be Takamura's chaperone. When Ippo was about to walk with Takamura, he noticed a falling potted plant that is about to hit Takamura's head. Ippo quickly punched the potted plant before it hit Takamura's head, however, Ippo was hit by Takamura since he thought that Ippo was trying to attack him, he hit him with an uppercut before realising that Ippo saved him.
Later, Ippo saved Takamura from getting hit again by a flying sign while he was following him in his roadwork in high winds. As Ippo was still worried about Takamura's right leg, he suggested for him to postpone his world title match. Takamura told Ippo how he doesn't have time to postpone it, and that compared to "that", his leg pain is barely a mosquito bite. Ippo believed that "that" means the child he injured while saving, not wanting the child to feel like he is the reason for postponing it. The day before Dragon is scheduled to arrive to Japan, Ippo overheard Kamogawa's statement to the gym members that whether or not a God exists is irrelevant, since miracles and good luck only appears after one believes in their fists and never abandons them. He agreed with Kamogawa, but was still uneasy about the match. Ippo also realised that it would take a miracle for Dragon to arrive in Japan due to the typhoon, making the bad luck he would bring be delayed for a couple of days. The next day, the typhoon passed over, which he thought was strange. Ippo decided to go to the shrine to pray for Takamura's victory over Dragon, who seemingly made the typhoon pass for his expected arrival. When Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki also arrived to the shrine, Ippo wondered why they came since they looked down on praying, however, they revealed that they have changed their minds when Dragon seemed to caused the weather to bend for him, so they can only rely on God now. The four continuously prayed, throwing their coins in the slots.
When Ippo went home, he began watching videos of Dragon's matches to try and find something he may be overlooking, as his record of 25 matches with no losses can't be from just luck. Ippo was amazed to see Dragon is not just about luck as he sees his calm left leading to his strong right despite the right being a huge swing. Later at the Kamogawa gym, Kamogawa had Ippo to accompany Yagi to Shibuya in Tokyo so that Dragon can play mahjong since it was a condition that Dragon set that he has to play mahjong if he comes to Japan. Ippo learned from Kamogawa that Yagi was known as the "King of the Underworld" in the mahjong world, being undefeated for twenty years, and that the goal is to have Dragon lose in order to not let him go in the ring in a good mood. Ippo and Yagi arrived to the mahjong parlour, Otakugon, and was introduced the two other mahjong players by the owner: Takachan Ōi and Jen Murakami, who are mahjong professionals and Yagi's pupils. When Dragon arrived to the Otakugon, the mahjong match between Yagi, Dragon, Murakami, and Ōi began, with Ippo watching. After Dragon won the first mahjong match, the second match ended after Yagi got banned when he tried to start gambling with Dragon. Dragon's use of his left hand during the mahjong matches made Ippo come to a realisation that Dragon is a southpaw, soon confirming it when he watched videos at his house again.
After receiving a call from Takamura, Ippo ran to the shrine, where Takamura was waiting for him. There, Ippo was surprised as Takamura made an offering. He figured that Takamura was anxious about fighting Dragon, but Takamura was excited for the match. After Takamura pulled the string too hard and broke it, he asked Ippo if he ever thinks that he should give something another try, as he has his boxing and natural talent, asking what is more valuable than those. Without hesitation, Ippo answered with his mother. As Takamura left, Ippo wondered what Takamura prayed for. Later, Ippo went to Takamura's press conference for his match against Dragon and the Hirosue afterwards to eat. Walking back to the Kamogawa gym, he explained to Taihei and Kintarō how Takamura was a lot more calm while he ate compared to his previous weight controls, adding that the weight control is different for everyone, but it is harsh for Takamura. Before he ran off, Takamura requested for Ippo, Taihei, and Kintarō to meet him at the Chūka Soba after they drop off his champion belts at the gym. That night, Ippo, along with the rest of the Kamogawa gym boxers went to the Chūka Soba, however, Takamura was late. As everyone got worried about Takamura's chances against Dragon after Kimura mentioned how Dragon was not only playing around with mahjong, but also training for the match, Ippo remembers that Takamura even recognises how strong Dragon is, revealing to everyone how he prayed at a shrine. Kimura asked Ippo if he gave Takamura a voodoo doll. Ippo and everyone else were worried as Ippo found the voodoo doll in his pocket. However, everyone became unimpressed of Takamura as he showed up looking in bad shape, claiming that Yamaguchi threw him out again.
The next day, Ippo went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan for Takamura WBC super middleweight title match against Dragon. While preparing ice for Takamura's corner, Ippo had Taihei and Kintarō help him. When he saw Taihei and Kintarō try to get ice from another trainer, Ippo made them stop and apologise, recognising the trainer as Oguchi, and his boxer, Daisuke Watanabe from the Nabe gym. After Ippo apologised to Daisuke, the latter wonders how Ippo knows him, which Ippo answered that it is because he is in the same weight class as he used to be, telling him what he knows about him. When Daisuke left for his match, Ippo, Taihei, and Kintarō watched and cheered for Daisuke as he won his match by knockout. Ippo remembered when he used to be in the ring and did the best he could. He pondered that he has no regrets, but if there was one, it would be that he couldn't fulfil his promise to Miyata. Walking away from the audience area, Ippo came across Miyata. As Miyata mentioned how he came to the venue to simply watch his former gym mate, Takamura fight, he began to tell Ippo about Dragon's dominant arm seemingly being his left, however, Ippo interrupted him, revealing that he also noticed it while watching Dragon play mahjong. Ippo ran off to Takamura's dressing room, regretting how awkward he is around Miyata still. Ippo helped Taihei and Kintarō build Takamura's ring entrance costume made by Wataru in time for Takamura to wear it.
As Takamura's match against Dragon was about to begin, Takamura arrived to the ring with his costume designed by Wataru. After being unable to open Takamura's wings on the costume that were controlled by a device to open them, Takamura was able to open it himself. Ippo watched at the ringside as the match began. During the second round, Ippo felt as if something has been off since the beginning of the match. When he was asked by Kamogawa if he has noticed anything, Ippo realised that Kamogawa has the same feeling and confirmed to Kamogawa, however, he did not know how to explain what it is. As Yagi and Shinoda tried to find the source of their discomfort, Kamogawa revealed the source as Takamura being stronger than usual since he has been freed from the shackles of weight control, which Ippo agreed. During the third round after Takamura had a down declared on him, Ippo noticed how the event and Takamura's right leg being injured is due to bad luck, and, as the match goes into Dragon's favour, he began to think that it is the work of the divine. When Takamura began guarding against Dragon's attacks near the end of the third round, Ippo quickly recognised it as the Turtle Strategy, and believed that Takamura is going to come back to get instructions from Kamogawa. After the third round ended, Kamogawa and Takamura argued after Kamogawa only advised him to use spirit, and Kamogawa gave Takamura a smack on his back, leaving a hand print, Ippo believed that the two are turning the match around. After Takamura won in the fourth round, becoming the WBC super middleweight champion, Ippo noted how incredible the proud Takamura and Kamogawa are. In Takamura's room in the venue, Ippo was tasked by Kamogawa to take Takamura to a taxi and send him home due to his injured right leg. Despite Takamura's complaints, Ippo carried him out of the venue to send him home.
In a taxi, Ippo informed Takamura how Kamogawa was making a pained face, assuming that he was agonised about the decision of balancing a boxer's life against their next victory with Takamura's leg injury, however, he noted that Kamogawa was more energetic than usual when Takamura won. Ippo congratulated Takamura for his victory, believing that Takamura's wish to the shrine paid off, but Takamura claimed that if one has something to accomplish with the rest of their life, the one who's going to grant the wishes isn't the Gods, but one's self, as the one who can do what they want to do is one's self. Ippo asked what Takamura means by that, however, the latter fell asleep. Upon arrival to Takamura's home, Ippo carried Takamura and encountered Yamaguchi, who came to help Takamura, outside. Ippo slept as Yamaguchi helped Takamura. Ippo's dream about hugging Kumi after coming home from a harsh battle leads to him waking up to him and Takamura hugging each other, as Takamura also had a good dream. Thinking that the world title match was just a dream, Ippo congratulates Takamura after he picks up a newspaper about his super middleweight world title match victory, realising it wasn't a dream.
At the Kamogawa gym, Ippo continuously made mistakes while mitt practising with Kintarō until Aoki came over and began holding the mitts for Kintarō instead. As Ippo saw Aoki flawlessly mitt practising with Kintarō, Ippo claimed that Aoki should become a trainer since his mitt holding skills are great, making Aoki angry since it is like suggesting for him to retire from boxing. Ippo found out that Aoki, Kimura, and Itagaki watched Takamura's match with Miyata, and that Miyata's back looked lonely as he left. When Yagi entered the gym, Ippo was shocked as he revealed that he had another mahjong match with Dragon, where, after Dragon was thrown off by Robo and Matsu, Yagi won. Later, Ippo was fishing as he thought about how his gym mates said Miyata's back looked lonely, thinking that Miyata should go for the world already as he shouldn't have any opponents in the OPBF. Ippo was approached by Kumi and became excited when she revealed that Mashiba's world title match has been decided.
Ippo learned from Kumi that it was Mashiba that claimed it has been decided, however, the world title match will be after the world preliminary title match against Juan Garcia. Ippo recognised the former lightweight world champion's name, knowing that it won't be as easy as Mashiba says it will be. While Kumi was worried about Mashiba coming home in pain, Ippo was excited to see Mashiba join Sendō and Volg in the world stage, wishing for Miyata to do the same. Later, while on a break from doing roadwork with Taihei and Kintarō, he was asked by Taihei about the left body blow, as he knew that boxers do it differently. Ippo demonstrated how he does it by lightly pressing up under Taihei's ribs, causing him and Kintarō to be surprised and ask Ippo if he could win a match still, however, Ippo mentioned that everyone he has fought and are still active are far ahead of him now. Later, Ippo was invited by Kumi to Mashiba's encouragement party at a public bar. There, everyone at the party wanted to know everything Ippo knew about Juan. After a detailed description about Juan, and mentioning how a failed world title preliminary match can lead to retirement, Ippo got yelled at by everyone for ruining the mood. After the party, Ippo walked home with Kumi. On the way home, Ippo learned that the woman walking home with Mashiba is the daughter of the owner of Tanaka Transportation, Rie Tanaka, and that the company has people who were the first to accept Mashiba.
Later, Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch the title match between JBC featherweight champion Imai and the first ranker, Hoshi. Ippo watched as the match ended in Imai's victory in the first round by knockout. Ippo and Itagaki met Sendō at the corridors, where Sendō informed them that his match against Ricardo has been finalised. The three head to Fujii and Mari for details, however, the reporters revealed to them that Ricardo called a press conference for his next match, but his next opponent isn't Sendō, and the match is already in contract, so Sendō isn't able to stop it. Ippo was shocked and excited to learn from the reporters that the opponent is the third ranker in the WBA and former Indonesian champion Wally.
|Tokyo, Japan||4(10), 2:45||TKO||"10 MONTHS IN THE MAKING"|
Retires After Match
|Tokyo, Japan||7(10), 1:17||TKO||"GO TO THE WORLD!"|
World Title Preliminary Match
|Tokyo, Japan||1(10), 2:07||TKO||"OPERATION WORLD DOMINATION II"|
8th JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||8(10), 1:35||TKO||"IN THE JUNGLE"|
"Survival Match of Asian Champions"
|Tokyo, Japan||8(10), 2:37||TKO||"WINNER TAKES ALL!!"|
"Survival Match of Asian Champions"
|Tokyo, Japan||4(10), 2:30||TKO||"THE SCRATCH!!"|
"Survival Match of Asian Champions"
|Tokyo, Japan||6(10), 1:00||TKO||Champion Carnival|
"The Challenge for the 7th Defence"
7th JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||2(10), 2:15||TKO||"The Challenge for the 6th Defence"|
6th JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||7(10), 1:15||TKO||"DRAGON SLAYER"|
5th JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||7(10), 2:15||KO||Champion Carnival|
4th JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||1(10), 0:32||TKO||"BATTLE OF HAWK"|
3rd JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||2(10), 2:42||KO||"PROOF OF POWER" |
2nd JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||5(10), 2:33||TKO||Champion Carnival|
1st JBC Featherweight Title Defence Match
|Tokyo, Japan||7(10), 1:34||KO||"LALLAPALLOOZA" |
JBC Featherweight Title Match
|Tokyo, Japan||2(10), 2:00||TKO||"ROAD BACK"|
|Tokyo, Japan||5(10), 2:32||TKO||Champion Carnival|
"CHALLENGE FOR THE THRONE"
JBC Featherweight Title Match
Alexander Volg Zangief
|Tokyo, Japan||5(8), 1:21||KO||"WHITE FANG"|
Class-A Tournament Finals
|Tokyo, Japan||4(6), 2:12||TKO||"SPEED STAR"|
Class-A Tournament Round 1
|Tokyo, Japan||1(10), 2:58||TKO||"TWO ROOKIE KINGS"|
Becomes Ranked 1st in JBC Ranking
|Tokyo, Japan||3(6), 3:00||TKO||All Japan Rookie King Tournament|
|Tokyo, Japan||3(6), 2:13||TKO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Finals|
|Tokyo, Japan||1(4), 2:59||KO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Semi-Finals|
|Tokyo, Japan||4(4), 2:58||KO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Quarter-Finals|
|Tokyo, Japan||2(4), 2:52||KO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament First Round|
|Tokyo, Japan||1(4), 2:50||KO||N/A|
|Tokyo, Japan||3(4), 2:35||TKO||Pro Debut Match|
This list does not include the numerous spars Ippo has had with his fellow gymmates.
|Preceded by||Title||Succeeded by|
|Takeshi Sendō||JBC Featherweight Champion
November 20, 1993-1997
(Succeeded by Kyōsuke Imai)
|Keigo Okita||All Japan Featherweight Rookie King||Akira Shigeta|
|Keigo Okita||East Japan Featherweight Rookie King||Akira Shigeta|
Main Article: Makunouchi Ippo/Relationships
Throughout the story, he has met a lot of different people, with half of them being rivals during his time as a professional boxer.
Striking a resemblance to his father, he has black, short shaggy hair and thick eyebrows. He has a light tanned complexion, and his eye colour is black, while in the anime, after the first season, his eye colour was changed from black to brown. At one point, Ippo shaved his head as a way to take the guilt of having injured Taihei after he slapped him until it slowly grew back. Later, he shaved his head again while helping Kimura go through weight management by shaving his whole body to cut off some weight.
His body, while being in the featherweight division, is stressed as extremely muscular. It should be noted that Ippo has a larger than average penis, a quality apparently not uncommon amongst featherweights as Sendō has one as well, according to Takamura.
His attire usually consists of the white Kamogawa gym shirt and pants. During roadwork he usually wears his blue and white jogging suit that he received from Kumi for his 23rd birthday.
As a child, Ippo was a very shy, kind and obedient boy who was also very strong-willed and stubborn. He carries most of these personality traits as he got older. He is usually a kind and reserved person who dislikes fighting, and because of that he had been bullied since grade school. He would also come home after school, holding back his tears and try to convince his mother that everything was alright after being bullied.
Despite his strength and courage, Ippo still behaves rather meek out of the ring and often humbles himself around his rivals. For example, even though he has defeated both Mashiba and Sendō, he fears Mashiba and tries to avoid discussing a second rematch with Sendō whenever he is around. He also continued to be intimidated by Umezawa, his former bully, long after he began boxing. He has a great deal of respect for his gym-mate Takamura and former Japanese Featherweight Champion Date and he was completely shocked when World Featherweight Champion Ricardo requested a spar with him.
His dream is to one day face Miyata in the pro ring, and the two of them view each other as eternal rivals. They both also influence each other to keep on boxing. Despite these feelings towards each other, they appear to also view each other as friends and Ippo even refers to Miyata as "Miyata-kun". Because Ippo tends to know a lot about Miyata, people tend to call him a Miyata Otaku, while his gym mates jokingly imply that he must be "gay for Miyata". Miyata is a person Ippo will never forget. At the same time, Ippo aims to become equal to Takamura in terms of strength.
Kamogawa puts him through strict training and the two of them have a strong teacher-student bond. Ippo trusts Kamogawa and has faith in his teachings, while Kamogawa believes that Ippo may be the one who will eventually realise his World Championship dream. Takamura has said that Kamogawa seems more like Ippo's father than his coach, and because Ippo's father died when he was young he begins to view Kamogawa in that way. When Ippo decided to be a second, he wanted to raise boxers alongside Kamogawa, as he believed he left a bad taste in his mouth when he retired.
Ippo can also be fixated on a certain thing, specifically the Diagonal Dempsey Roll, being so single-minded that he gets overheated, frustrated and loses his boxing style.
Ippo is quite friendly, and many of his rivals have become friends of his, most notably are Miyata, Sendō, Date, Sanada, Volg, and Kobashi, whom all still keep in touch with him from time to time. He is well liked by his gymmates, especially Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura. Even though he still has the personality of a young boy, he still manages to serve as a good senpai for his kōhai Itagaki.
When it comes to love, Ippo is definitely a late bloomer, he is naive, pure-hearted, and awkward. He is in love with Kumi whom he dates frequently, and she feels the same for him, but because of the silent pressure of Kumi's older brother Mashiba Ryō, the "attacks" of reporter Mari and Nanako, and the meddling of Takamura and the others, their relationship has yet to progress much. The one time Ippo confessed to her, Kumi had fallen asleep after drinking too much alcohol, and unfortunately didn't hear it.
Because of his personality, Ippo is seldom seen as being angry before a fight, even if his opponent insults him or his boxing skills. However, it has been shown on rare occasions that he is capable of displaying anger whenever an opponent says or hurts someone close to him, or does something to look down on the sport of boxing, which he loves. Such occasions have been when he saw Sawamura intentionally commit fouls in his previous matches, despite having the upperhand, and then later on when he struck Kumi with a sharp jab, cutting her face. Another occasion when his opponent, Kojima, insulted his previous opponents, both in person and publicly in a magazine, and also insulting Kamogawa's teaching methods as they were fault. This resulted in Ippo displaying a new attitude, even going so far as to calmly state to Takamura, when asked if he would have any problems, that "this won't take long", referring to the match. Ippo's anger side also shows when he sees someone getting bullied, confronting the bullies.
His punching power aided him to become the All-Japan Rookie King and Most Talented Rookie Award winner, as well as coming out victorious in the Class A Tournament. In one go, he rose to the very top of the national rankings and earned a shot for Japan's throne, the JBC featherweight belt. Although he was unable to take the title from the veteran champion Eiji Date, he managed to defeat the champion Takeshi Sendō, taking the belt and defending it a total of eight times, while simultaneously building a reputation as the unofficial king of the OPBF. His durability and fighting spirit are considered to be his greatest attributes; each unparalleled in Japan.
Even before he started boxing, he had a good muscle build. Years of helping his mother carrying the fishing coolers to and from the boat helped develop his muscles and also constantly moving around on the fishing boat helped him develop a good lower body as well as good balance.
When he started out, the public view of Ippo as nothing more than an average boxer, however, after his win against amateur world champion Alexander Volg Zangief, others saw that he had grown as a boxer and recognised that a new star of the world of boxing had been born. As he fought in more matches, his popularity grew, and even after disappearing from the rankings during his second retirement, his name would still be mentioned around the world. His unrelenting flurry of blows have earned him the title "Wind God".
More than anything else, Ippo's boxing is distinguished and built around his overwhelming destructive power, evidenced by the 100% KO rate in his victories, with all of them coming before the 9th round. Along with Sendō, Ippo is considered to possess the strongest punches in the whole featherweight division.
Even before joining the Kamogawa gym, Ippo showed extraordinary muscular strength and punching power when he punched the sandbag for the first time, to the astonishment of everyone at the gym. Ippo's sheer physicality coupled with his indomitable fighting spirit, enables him to endure tremendous physical damage and continue fighting.
Instead of settling with his already exceptional strength in order to focus on other aspects of his boxing, Ippo has doubled down on his punching power during all of his career by constantly working on methods to enhance it even further, including weight training, log hitting and wood cutting. During his second retirement, his strength grew greater through the use of body weights.
Ippo's punching power has at various occasions proven to be great enough to break bones, embed the mark of his fists on his opponent's bodies, entirely lift them off the mat, cause them to bleed and take considerable damage from hits on their guard, and even send them flying from centre ring to the ropes or the corner with a single punch. His strength has also enabled him to knock out opponents from up to 4 weight classes higher in spars and an opponent from 2 weight classes higher in an official bout, doing the latter with a single strike.
Due to the continuous reinforcement of his lower body strength, Ippo's stability and sense of balance has dramatically improved as well, prompting his opponents to compare him to an immovable rock at times. As an additional result, Ippo gained the ability to throw heavy punches from seemingly impossible angles and positions while pivoting on either on his legs, essentially being able to fight at full strength in both the orthodox and southpaw stances.
Since the very beginning, Ippo's devastating strength and power has been the fundamental backbone of his fighting style, and the asset he can rely on the most.
In the same manner that Ippo holds physical dominance over most of his opponents, inversely, he notably finds himself at a disadvantage concerning textbook boxing techniques and strategies when compared to his contemporaries, such as Miyata, Mashiba and Volg. However, despite not being his forte, the vast amount of technical expertise Ippo has accrued and polished over the course of his career is undeniable.
Even before being introduced to the Kamogawa gym, Ippo showed an early aptitude for boxing by learning on his own how to replicate the form and speed of a jab by single-handedly catching multiple fallen leaves, greatly surpassing Takamura's expectations. Before turning pro, Ippo learned how to perform the many basic techniques of boxing under the tutelage of Kamogawa, and was able to surprise the experienced mentor with his proficiency for uppercuts. Within a year of training,