Manabu Itagaki (板垣学, Itagaki Manabu) is a tritagonist in Hajime no Ippo, since the New Challenger Saga. He is a featherweight professional boxer renowned for his speed and genius boxing talent. He, along with Makunouchi Ippo, Takamura Mamoru, Aoki Masaru, and Kimura Tatsuya, round out the core members of the Kamogawa Boxing Gym.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 2.1 Part I
- 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 Destined Boxer 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
- 3 Match History
- 4 Appearance
- 5 Personality
- 6 Boxing Abilities
- 7 Gallery
- 8 Trivia
- 9 References
In middle school, he was a soccer player, and when he was thinking about which high school to enter, some scouts talked to him, but team sports didn't interest him. He wanted to see how far he could go on his own power. When he first joined high school, he took a liking to boxing, since not even his senpai in the boxing club could touch him. He easily got a spot as the Tokyo Representative.
When he first met Imai Kyōsuke in the national tournament, he was excited since Imai reminded him of a warrior. When he fought him, however, it was an overwhelming defeat. They fought three times in high school, and each time Itagaki lost by knockout. The first time, he was knocked out before he knew what happened, the second time he used his footwork and got defeated, then he thought he had to get faster, but still was knocked out in the end. In order to defeat him no matter what, he skipped college and joined the Kamogawa gym to be a pro boxer, where his idol, Ippo trained.
Itagaki arrived at the Kamogawa Boxing Gym, hearing good sounds from Makunouchi Ippo's punches. After he made Aoki Masaru and Kimura Tatsuya mad after not knowing who they were, Yagi Haruhiko introduced Itagaki as the Inter-High National #2. Itagaki mentioned that the gym had a fighter he respects, which turned out to be Ippo, who he viewed as a senpai. In order to test Itagaki, the gym members had him follow a their usual roadwork. Itagaki couldn't keep up with Ippo, but he performed better than Aoki and Kimura, which showcased his talent.
When they returned to the gym, Yagi showed the group Ippo's second JBC featherweight title defence opponent, Hammer Nao, which was the ring name of Yamada Naomichi. After finding out who he was, Itagaki thought it would be an easy win, not knowing the bond between the two and was confused when Ippo was tense and left the room. Later, when the match poster was plastered on the gym's exterior, it was pointed out how small Aoki's semifinal match advertisement was, leading Itagaki to think the levels were too different, making Aoki angry. Later, Ippo asked Itagaki about his goals. Itagaki answered he wants to be a boxer that can compete at world level, specifically one that continued to win like him, or like De La Hoya or Ricardo López, believing a high goal to be good, as if a goal was easy to reach, he would run out of steam after.
Itagaki witnessed Ippo's training for the first time, amazed about his power to send a sandbag to a great height and was disappointed when it was revealed that Ippo would not be able to use his Dempsey Roll during the match. When the day of the match arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall and watched Aoki's match against Paddy Magramo and Ippo's title defence match against Yamada, which ended in Aoki and Ippo's victory, later congratulating the latter.
Itagaki attended a training camp with Takamura, Kimura and Wanpo to help him prepare for his debut match. He ran into Ippo, Aoki, Tomiko, Mashiba Kumi, Nekota Ginpachi, and Hachi there. That night on the beach, Takamura, Kimura, and Itagaki were sneaking up on a couple. Takamura then went up to the couple and groped the woman's breast. Then as soon as one of the fireworks blast into the sky, the couple were revealed to be Aoki and Tomiko, causing Kimura and Itagaki to run away. They then followed Wanpo, who led them to a beaten Nekota and Hachi while Takamura was flailing around in the water, to their confusion. The next day, Itagaki sparred with Kimura. After the spar was over, Itagaki wanted to continue to get a better sense for pro fights, but Kimura was too tired. Itagaki then asked Ippo, who stopped by, for a spar. Ippo 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. Itagaki deemed it a good experience, telling Kimura, who was curious, that he does not want to copy Ippo's in-fighter style, but counter it as a out-boxer in order to defeat the first placer in the amateurs who intends to go pro and has the same style as Ippo. Then, Nekota stopped by with fireworks to use at night, with Itagaki 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, Itagaki looked up at the stars, setting his goal to to follow the same path Ippo took in order to get back at "him". Takamura's fireworks that he set earlier for revenge start going off toward the group as they ran away.
When Itagaki, Kimura, and Takamura returned to Kamogawa gym from the training camp, they found that Ippo was pressured by a newcomer. Itagaki thought Aoki was joking until he saw Imai Kyōsuke. When Imai told Itagaki that he would aim at becoming pro and would take the shortest path to Ippo's title, Itagaki told him that he won't reach it as he would stop him. After Imai left without a word, Itagaki explained his past with Imai to his gym mates, knowing that his current strength was not yet enough, however he planned on winning the next time in the ring. The next day, Itagaki found out that Takamura's WBC title match against Bryan Hawk was decided. Kamogawa Genji announced that Itagaki's debut match was in October, along with Kimura's comeback match.
Itagaki arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall for his debut match against Makino Fumito. The match started, and Itagaki quickly began to dominate him in speed and technique, with Makino unable to touch him. However, in a desperate act, Makino committed a foul by headbutting him, causing Itagaki to go down after getting hit when itagaki tried to alert the referee. After the referee ignored Itagaki's complaint of him counting it as a down, Itagaki got up. Itagaki was then soon taken down when Makino hit him with an elbow, resulting in Itagaki's loss. At his changing room, Itagaki was angered and confused about the outcome of the match. Ippo entered the room, and when Itagaki tried to explain it to Ippo, Ippo told him that it wasn't a foul as the referee did not stop the fight and that it was Itagaki's fault he loss. Angry, Itagaki ran off since Ippo wasn't on his side.
While Ippo, Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura were doing roadwork, Itagaki approached them, feeling as if it would be a waste not to be there with them. Later, Itagaki acted as a sparring partner for Ippo for his third JBC featherweight title defence. Itagaki and the others became worried about Takamura's weight management and bought him bags of dried shiitake for him. While Takamura was going threw harsh weight control, he mentioned to him that he had a "Sister Complex" as a pun. After Takamura's harsh weight management, Itagaki attended the press conference, where he, Aoki, Kimura, and Ippo 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. Itagaki 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.
On the day of Ippo and Takamura's match, Itagaki visited Takamura and told him he will be proud to say he goes to the same gym as a world champion before leaving to watch the match. Itagaki 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 Itagaki heard that Aoki was sent around Japan selling mini versions of the statue for a higher price than it was, Itagaki 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 the one decided to go find him.
After Itagaki defeated Baraki Haseo by knockout, winning for the first time, he excitedly climbed the ropes in the corner to do a victory pose. In the changing room, Itagaki mentioned he wasn't nervous since he was always sparring with the Japanese featherweight champion, and if it is just a four round fight, he is not scared of anyone. In order to thank Ippo, Itagaki took Ippo to his house to celebrate. When they arrived at his house, Itagaki revealed his intentions of wanting to make it easier on his family by using his fists to earn money after quitting college for boxing, and after winning his recent match, he earned enough money to cover the East Japan Rookie King Tournament entrance fee. Itagaki then introduced his sister, Nanako, who was also a big fan, along with his mother to Ippo. Once his father arrived, the Itagaki family began to eat, and over the course of the dinner, they start to tell bad puns naturally, which caught Ippo off guard.
At the Kamogawa gym, Kamogawa and Yagi announced the upcoming fights for everyone starting in early spring, including Itagaki's first Rookie King tournament match. Itagaki began training, aiming for the Rookie King title. He also helped as a sparring partner for Ippo in preparation for his fourth JBC featherweight title defence match against Shimabukuro Iwao, and watched Ippo's training. At Ippo's peak exhaustion, Kamogawa ordered him to stop training since he was at peak exhaustion and to only soak in a pool if he needed to do something. Itagaki and Nanako visited Ippo at the Swimming Club to encourage him. Itagaki asked Ippo about his opponent's comment in the paper about "Under the Sea". When Ippo expressed his trust in Kamogawa that he would know the meaning, Itagaki was amazed of the level of bond and trust between them.
On the day of Ippo's match against Shimabukuro, Itagaki arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall with Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura. They discussed how Ippo accidentally fully undressed himself at the weigh-in. Itagaki then watched Ippo fight Shimabukuro, which ended in Ippo's victory.
Itagaki continued to train for his first match in the East Japan Rookie King tournament. As Aoki prepared for his JBC lightweight title match against Katsutaka Imae, Itagaki discussed with Kimura about the chances of Aoki winning. Despite the odds being against Aoki, Itagaki felt if Aoki is confident and does his best, he could win. On the day of the weigh-in, Itagaki passed the weight check. He then left the Kōrakuen Hall to meet with Ippo and Kimura. Kimura mentioned how similar Aoki and Imae were, which Itagaki disagreed.They then saw Imae from a distance talking to his girlfriend, Sachiko. After Imae left and made her cry and run off, Itagaki changed his mind and decided they are similar due to their choices of women. The next day, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall for his first round of the Rookie King tournament. During the match, Itagaki noticed how his body felt sluggish, and wondered if it was because he ate too much. Itagaki then won the match by knockout in the fourth round. Itagaki watched Aoki's title match against Imae and got tricked by Aoki's Look Away, turning his head with the rest of the audience to see what Aoki was looking at. After Aoki's match ended in a draw and was unable to get the belt, Takamura chastised Aoki for the performance. Itagaki, Ippo, and Kimura then made Takamura go to Aoki's house to apologise for his actions. They left before doing so however, as Aoki seemed busy.
Itagaki and his other gym mates wondered if Aoki is going to retire since he hasn't been to the gym for a while since his loss against Imae. When Ippo went to talk to Kobashi Kenta, who came by to visit, Itagaki went with him and was disappointed to hear that Kobashi, a former JBC champion retired and became a trainer. As Kobashi talked about the upcoming East Japan Rookie King Tournament, Itagaki mentioned how glad he was that he wasn't attending during Kobashi's generation as they had great fighters. When Itagaki returned to the Kamogawa gym, Aoki came back and introduced the two that kept him from retiring: Akamatsu Isamu and Kizakura Hiroshi, also known as Team Aoki.
When Itagaki and Kimura saw Isamu and Hiroshi lazing around at the gym, they took them to do roadwork. As Isamu and Hiroshi were having trouble running, they revealed how hard their past was, leading Itagaki to suggest for them to look up to Ippo, however, they only like the scent of Aoki because he wins without trying. Later, Itagaki attended Takamura's press conference with his first WBC junior middleweight title defence opponent, Larry Bernard, where he announced his relinquishment of his junior middleweight belt to move on with his six weight class conquest up to the heavyweight class while vowing to not take a single hit against Bernard to prove he's ready. The next day, Itagaki went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan to watch the match, which, despite breaking his no-hit promise, Takamura won. Later, since Ippo needed help reviewing his fifth JBC featherweight title defence opponent, Sawamura Ryūhei, Itagaki was one of the gym members to be called to Takamura's home to try and help Ippo. The event ended when Takamura got angry due to the large number of people in his room.
With Ippo trying to come up with a tactic to beat counter punchers with the Dempsey Roll as counters are the Dempsey Roll's weakness, Kimura was asked to help since he has counters like Sawamura. When Kimura tried to counter the Dempsey Roll in a spar, he backed away due to the pressure of the technique, which Itagaki understood the reason Kimura did so, as he saw the timing but couldn't throw a punch. Itagaki searched for a reason the Dempsey Roll has a unique feeling when trying to counter it. He found the reason during an encounter with Isamu and Hiroshi when Itagaki got startled when Hiroshi put out his hand outside of Itagaki's blind spot while trying to grab his book out of Itagaki's hand. Itagaki informed Kimura and Aoki about the cause of anxiety when going against the Dempsey Roll being that Ippo comes from the opponent's blind spots to attack. While the group decided to have Kimura counter the Dempsey Roll with the newfound knowledge, they saw Volg at the gym and decided to ask him. While Volg was reluctant at first, he decided to spar against Ippo. Itagaki watched as Volg successfully pulled off a Dempsey Roll counter, knocking Ippo out.
When Ippo's match against Sawamura arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch the match, which ended in Ippo's victory. After the match, Itagaki was relieved to hear from Yamaguchi Tomoko that Ippo did not have any career ending injuries.
When Umezawa was thinking of retiring from the Makunouchi Fishing Boat to pursue his dream of being a mangaka, Itagaki was called to give him opinions on Umezawa's finished manga by Ippo. Itagaki called Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura to give their opinions as well. As the group read it, Takamura fought Aoki over it, causing him to accidentally rip some pages in half. The group left Ippo and Umezawa and ran away due to the shame. After Umezawa left the Fishing Boat company, he called Itagaki to take his place. Itagaki accepted the request and began working at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, earning money and gaining the same boxing-related benefits on his body just like Ippo. Later, the benefits began to show as Itagaki defeats his second opponent in the Rookie King tournament in the second round by knockout. Later, Itagaki and Ippo watched the WBA featherweight champion Ricardo Martinez's 21st title defence match that was airing on TV, where Ricardo quickly won. After watching, Itagaki got frustrated Ippo explained how he and Ricardo are in two different worlds, which Itagaki suggested to go for the WBC instead, but Ippo took that idea as absurd. As Ippo fantasised about Miyata, Itagaki pondered how Kumi and Nanako don't stand a chance against Miyata.
Later, the Kamogawa gym held a party at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat by hosting a fishing competition. Itagaki and Ippo were in charge of steering the boat as the Kamogawa gym boxers and staff competed in catching fish for dinner. After the competition, Itagaki went to eat dinner that Makunouchi Hiroko cooked with everyone. With everyone gathered, Kamogawa revealed everyone's matches, with Itagaki continuing his East Japan Rookie King tournament.
When Imai visited the Kamogawa gym to spar with Ippo, Itagaki tried to get Imai to spar with him instead. Imai looked down on Itagaki, which caused Itagaki to get heated until Ippo stopped him and accepted the spar. After watching the spar where Imai was beating Ippo the whole time, Itagaki approached Miyata, who was also watching. Itagaki tried to defend Ippo, however, Miyata saw it as that Itagaki did not want to admit his rival is strong, something Miyata suggested for Itagaki to be happy about.
Later, Itagaki went to the Makunouchi Fishing Boat and watched a video of one of the WBC middleweight champion David Eagle's matches, surprised at Eagle's strength. When Takamura got back from a training camp, he challenged Yagi to a fishing competition. Itagaki, Ippo, Aoki, and Kimura went to the fishing hole to cheer on Takamura, however, when they got there, there was a sign that permitted "Takamura's" and "Yagi's" from entering. They rush back to the gym and were shocked to learn that the fishing match ended in a draw after Takamura went into the water and grabbed three fish. Later, Itagaki fought against his opponent in the quarter-finals of the East Japan Rookie King tournament, winning by knockout after having a difficult time at first. Walking home with Ippo with a swollen face, Itagaki asked if he looked more like a pro now before stopping himself, remembering how Ippo told him how he doesn't take his fights seriously after losing his debut match. After Ippo reminded Itagaki that he has two matches until the finals of the tournament, Itagaki wished to defeat Imai so that he can start to be proud.
Later, after Takamura, Aoki. and Kimura came back from their training camp, Itagaki welcomed them back and saw the match poster for Takamura's world title match. Itagaki attended Takamura and Eagle's weigh-in, along with Aoki and Kimura's weigh-in with their opponents Papaya Dachiu and Eleki Battery respectively at the Yokohama Arena. The next day, Itagaki went to the Yokohama Arena and saw Aoki and Kimura, who were nervous about fighting with a big crowd. Itagaki mentioned his anticipation to the two about wanting to fight in front of big crowds. After wishing them good luck, Itagaki watched Kimura and Aoki's match against Eleki and Papaya respectively, where the matches ended in a draw. Itagaki watched the semi-finals, consisting of Miyata's fourth featherweight OPBF title defence against Medgoen Dachboy, which ended in Miyata's victory. Afterwards, Itagaki went to Takamura's dressing room and encouraged him as he left for the title match. Itagaki watched Takamura's WBC middleweight title match against Eagle. After the match ended in Takamura's victory, Itagaki went to the ring and celebrated with Takamura and his gym mates. After the match, Itagaki followed everyone as they went to Takamura's house to make sure he went to sleep. Itagaki and the others were thrown out as Takamura was unable to sleep with everyone watching.
After witnessing Aoki getting his Papaya haircut from Takamura, Itagaki went to have dinner at Ippo's home. While watching Takamura's commercial on "AHO FLEX" and remembering being there when Takamura won his second weight class title, Itagaki looked forward to seeing how far Takamura can go. He was shocked when he saw a commercial by Aoki, where he was advertising broccoli as Broccoman. Itagaki, Nanako, and Ippo went to the Kōrakuen Hall to see the qualifying match on who would face Itagaki in the East Japan Rookie King tournament semi-finals. Itagaki watched as Makino won against his opponent with Flicker Jabs, which tend to connect at the elbows. Itagaki felt as if needed to take responsibility for Makino's likeness of fouls since he was defeated by those fouls. Afterwards, Itagaki was approached by Makino outside, who warned Itagaki that he would trip up against him again. Imai appeared to back Itagaki, and when the tensions rose, Ippo stepped in to stop the three. Makino left, but not before stepping on Ippo's shoe, making Itagaki angry.
In order to prepare himself to go against Makino's Flicker Jabs, Itagaki went to the Tōhō gym to spar with Mashiba Ryō for two rounds. Though Itagaki was face was swollen after, he stayed standing for the two rounds and told Ippo that he got results from it. After another sparring session with Mashiba, Itagaki later went clothes shopping with him. They went to the Hirosue and when Mashiba expressed how he liked that Kumi and Ippo have made no progress in their relationship, Itagaki advised for Mashiba to let Kumi make her own decisions about who she should date or she may end up rebelling against him. Itagaki Itagaki also informed Mashiba that the reason he is obsessed with the Rookie Kings was to regain his self-confidence that Ippo made him lose after he told him after he loss his debut match that someone like him isn't a pro. Itagaki continued to spar with Mashiba for three rounds, three times a week.
After a sparring session with Kimura, Mari arrived to the gym and Itagaki learned about Makino's situation with a hospitalised patient, however, he felt no different about the match after hearing it. Itagaki went to the Tōhō gym to give Mashiba thanks for his help. Before leaving, Mashiba asked what Itagaki would do if he continued to win, as he can't challenge Ippo for the title since Ippo is in the same gym as him. Itagaki planned to wait for Ippo to relinquish his title. The night before his match against Makino, Itagaki was nervous, since Makino was the type he is weak against and did not want to lose to the same opponent twice.
The next day, Itagaki arrived to the ring of the Kōrakuen Hall for his East Japan Rookie King tournament semi-finals match against Makino. When the match began, Itagaki was able to dodge and block Makino's Flicker Jabs, but unable to get close. Itagaki was pushed to the ropes by the Flicker Jabs. After a failed attempt of getting out by attacking, Itagaki began to parry all of Makino's Flicker Jabs by focusing. Getting used to the Flicker Jabs, Itagaki landed punches while dodging and parrying Makino's attacks. After a barrage of punches, Itagaki dodged a clinch. Itagaki continued to attack Makino, pushing him into a corner, until the first round ended.
In the second round, Itagaki continuously attacked Makino while dodging attacks until he fell down. When Makino got up, Itagaki dodged a Flicker Jab, and when Makino tried to attack him with an elbow and headbutt, Itagaki dodged and blocked both fouls. Itagaki and Makino entered an exchange match until Itagaki downed Makino. The referee stopped the match immediately, resulting in Itagaki's victory and him moving to the East Japan Rookie King tournament finals. As Itagaki walked away from the ring, he met Imai as he was walking to the ring for his semi-finals, and encouraged him to not trip up. Leaving the Kōrakuen Hall, Itagaki heard how Imai won his match by a one round knockout and felt that Imai is always on step ahead of him, thinking that that is how Miyata feels about Ippo. Itagaki hoped to become stronger so that Imai is not ahead of him.
With Ippo's sixth JBC featherweight title defence match against the seventh ranker Karasawa Takuzō coming up, Itagaki watched Ippo train by hitting logs into the hillside with a hammer, noticing that Ippo is training for his Dempsey Roll as he is focusing on building his body for a stronger sideways motion, wondering how Karasawa will try to counter it. Later, Itagaki gave Ippo a vitamin shake as he did his log training, expressing his and the gym members' worry about his body due to the harsh training he is undergoing, but Ippo reassured him that he is fine. After Ippo did mitt training with Kamogawa, Itagaki caught Kamogawa washing his pained hands, asking to not tell anyone about it. When Kamogawa mentioned that Ippo's fists are frighteningly hard, Itagaki revealed that it might be due to Ippo pounding logs into the hillside. As Kamogawa frantically asked if he was using his fists, Itagaki confirmed to him it was with a hammer.
While running with Ippo, Itagaki discovered that Karasawa's possible strategy of running around and getting points early on while Ippo gets hasty to win by knockout and lose his rhythm is same as his strategy against Imai, seeing that Karasawa may be a good reference for him. Itagaki asked what Ippo will do if Karasawa running away, assuming he will use the Dempsey Roll. When Ippo claimed to be going back to the basics and trying to not rely on the Dempsey Roll, Itagaki became intrigued in seeing that Ippo will be beating his opponent with more precision since he is going back to the basics. When Itagaki and Ippo arrived to Ippo's home, Hiroko informed them that Takamura called while he was on his trip, requesting for Hiroko to tell Itagaki and Ippo that he is doing fine, assuming that they were worried. After getting a call from Takamura about him being in the Aokigahara forest catching giant stag beetles, Itagaki informed his gym mates and found out that they also received a phone call from Takamura as well, which Itagaki thinks that Takamura must be lonely since he is calling everyone.
On the day of Ippo's match against Karasawa, Itagaki had a meal with Ippo, Hiroko, and Takamura, who just returned to Tokyo. When Takamura argued with Itagaki, who thought there was no signs of tension in the atmosphere even though Ippo has a title defence, their argument was stopped by Ippo. Takamura apologised and Itagaki was gifted one of the pickled squid Takamura got in Osaka to make up for it. That night, Itagaki arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall and got to the audience seats in time for Ippo's match against Karasawa after having to go to the bathroom because of Takamura's pickled squid. During the second round, when Takamura suggested to look at Ippo's feet and see something that will scare out-boxers like Itagaki and Kimura, Itagaki noticed that Ippo distorts Karasawa's circular motion by simply stepping forward, trapping Karasawa at the corner. After Ippo won by knockout in the second round, Itagaki and Kimura admit that they would have thrown the same left as Karasawa did and get defeated if they were in the same situation as an out-boxer.
Afterwards, Itagaki got agitated after Takamura mentioned to Itagaki how Ippo's anti-out-boxer strategy may be used against him during his match against Imai, as Imai may have watched the match. As the group began to leave because Ippo's interviews will take awhile, Takamura noticed how Aoki was missing, since he is still in the bathroom. Takamura had Itagaki go get him. Along the way, Itagaki came across Imai. After Imai explained his goal of challenging Ippo by taking the shortest path and how Imai joined a different gym from Ippo's to challenge his goal while Itagaki is unable to challenge his goal, Imai wished to make a bet with him: if he wins, Itagaki has to introduce him to Nanako. Itagaki became angry after hearing his request and was about to fight him until they were stopped by the sight of Aoki, whose skin has sunken from being in the bathroom for too long. After Imai left and Itagaki hit Aoki for talking too much, making him have to go to the bathroom again, Itagaki had to wait outside the bathroom door until Aoki was finished.
Itagaki watched Volg's match against the IBF fourth ranker, Eric Thompson on TV with Ippo, which ended in Volg's victory. Itagaki showed Ippo the current monthly WBC rankings where he was placed twelfth, implying that Ippo could think about a world title match, however, Ippo explained that a world title match was beyond him. At the Kamogawa gym, since Aoki was angry at Takamura for feeding him the pickled squid that made him sick and was tired of Takamura's actions, he tried to split the gym into two factions, with Takamura being alone and the rest of the gym on Aoki's side. Itagaki and the rest of the gym went to Takamura's side after Yagi and Shinoda revealed to everyone about how Broccoman's popularity has severely gone down due to recent reports of Aoki leaving the Kōrakuen Hall while covered in faeces. 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.
Itagaki and Ippo went to Umezawa's home to congratulate him after discovering that his fishing manga has won a reward. While Ippo went to the bathroom, Itagaki learned from Umezawa how everyone's view of Ippo during his East Rookie King Tournament were that he had no chance and that he hasn't changed at all in that he still sees himself as the challenger despite being the champion. After receiving tapes of Imai's matches, Itagaki reviewed them. Realising that an exchange is inevitable, Itagaki wished he had more power, as he sees his fists as incredibly small.
A week before his match against Imai, Itagaki had his last spar which was against Ippo. Itagaki was able to surprise Ippo with his speed and fast punches. The spar ended with both standing. After the spar, Kamogawa told Itagaki to go to the rooftop to see what Ippo and Takamura were talking about. When Itagaki arrived, he overheard Takamura suggesting for him to tell Itagaki the truth that he would lose by knockout to Imai if he does not change his strategy. After questioning Ippo, Takamura ended up telling him that he lacks unpredictability, 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 weigh-in with Imai arrived, he went to the Kōrakuen Hall, where he meets Imai and mentioned that he has another reason to beat him as Nanako claimed that she doesn't have any interest in going out with him.
The next day, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall for his East Japan Rookie King Tournament finals match against Imai. While waiting for his match to begin, Itagaki was encouraged to win by Takamura, Aoki, Kimura, and Ippo before the four left to the audience seats. As his match was up and everyone was waiting for him to go to the ring, Itagaki gathered his thoughts before running to the ring. When he arrived to the ring and waited for the gong to sound, Itagaki made his decision on whether he would in-fight or use footwork.
When the match began, Itagaki used his footwork and fast lefts as Imai chased him, dodging and blocking Itagaki's lefts. Dodging Imai's punches, Itagaki soon began to land precise lefts through small gaps in Imai's guard. After Itagaki was pushed back when he blocked one of Imai's punches and Itagaki's lefts only hit Imai's block, Imai decreased his speed and hardened his block while Itagaki increased his speed and threw more lefts to find a hole in his block to land a right. When Imai opened his guard, Itagaki took the chance and threw a right. However, Imai predicted it and threw a body blow that Itagaki barely dodges. Realising that running away won't make him win, Itagaki decided to fight Imai in close ranged in-fighting, pushing his body onto Imai. Itagaki quickly noticed the difference of their strength as Imai slowly pushed him back. After being pushed back, Itagaki hit Imai with a right uppercut. Itagaki changed his stance to lean forward and shift his weight to his front feet. At close range, Itagaki dodged Imai's punches, and, after hitting him with a counter, Itagaki pushed into Imai's body with a stance lower than his. Itagaki hit Imai with body blows and dodged an uppercut before hitting him with a counter. As Itagaki was about to hit Imai with another punch, the gong sounded to end the first round, showing a victory pose before going to his corner. At the corner, Itagaki rejoiced how he scared Imai to Shinoda, who asked if Itagaki forgot his own style and noted that fighting Imai at close range is risky. Itagaki claimed to not have forgotten his own style and knew that he would have lasted throughout the first round in close range.
In the second round, Itagaki continued to fight in close range, hitting Imai with a left and barely dodging Imai's hook. Itagaki used his footwork to get out of range and dodge Imai's punches while stepping back in to throw his own at close range, mixing both in-fighting and out-boxing. After hitting Imai with a counter and combinations, Itagaki landed a punch that knocked Imai back. Stepping forward to attack once more, Itagaki was hit suddenly by Imai for the first time in the match. Despite getting hit, Itagaki stepped forward and attacked Imai's block. both boxers dodged each others punches while Itagaki is excited to see the same view Ippo sees while in-fighting. After their heads collided, causing Itagaki to receive a cut, Itagaki hit Imai with left and right combos until the second round ends. At the corner, Itagaki could only think about wanting to see more of the world Ippo sees while in-fighting.
When the third round began, Itagaki and Imai proceed to enter an in-fight exchange, with Itagaki dodging and throwing counters when he sees the chance. During the exchange, Itagaki was hit with two body blows, however, Itagaki was still able to continue fighting and dodging at close range. Itagaki's cut on his head bled after their heads collided again. Itagaki used the Hedgehog while at close range, pushing Imai back as he was unable to guard against all of the punches. With Imai pushed back to the ropes, Itagaki and Imai enter an exchange at close range, with both boxers landing multiple hits until the third round ended. At the corner, Itagaki made a pun while telling Shinoda how bad Imai's liver blows hurt.
In the fourth round, Itagaki attacked Imai at close range, hitting Imai's guard while Imai doesn't attack. When Itagaki saw an attack coming, he guarded his face, however, when Imai's attack hit Itagaki's guard, the impact still made Itagaki off balance. Itagaki continued to attack until he saw another attack coming that made his legs shake upon impact despite blocking his face. While barely dodging Imai's attacks, Itagaki landed a counter that leaves Imai open for more attacks. When Imai regained his footing, Itagaki was hit with a powerful blow on the face before getting hit again with an uppercut. When another attack was coming toward him, Itagaki dove into Imai and blocked his punch before hitting Imai in the face. After hitting Imai two more times, Itagaki was hit with a body blow that almost made him fall. Itagaki caught himself and attacked Imai's guard until the fourth round ended. At the corner, Itagaki's spirits were down, and, when Shinoda noticed that, Itagaki received empowering words of "Gattsu de Gattsun Gattsun da!!" ("ガッツでガッツンガッツンだ!!") from Shinoda. Itagaki responded with a pun of his own to Shinoda before leaving the corner.
In the fifth round, Itagaki was brought to the ropes by Imai's punches as Itagaki has slowed down. Itagaki barely dodged Imai's attacks at the rope by hanging onto the ropes and lessened the damage of another attack by rolling the punch with his head. Itagaki saw a liver blow coming and tried to lean onto the rope to create distance to dodge, however, Imai held the rope forward to prevent that from happening and Itagaki was hit by the liver blow. Itagaki tried to block Imai's punches afterwards, however, his guard broke and he was hit with multiple punches. As he was hit with a powerful left, Itagaki remembered how hard his gym mates fought when things got tough and Shinoda's words from earlier, giving him strength to fight back and hit Imai. Itagaki and Imai have an exchange, with both hitting each other until Itagaki was the only one getting hit until the fifth round ended. As Itagaki was about to fall near his corner after the gong rang, he was saved by Yagi's expert skill in placing the chair down, which caught his fall. Itagaki was unconscious and the referee was about to end the match until Ippo arrived, waking Itagaki go back to his senses.
At the start of the final sixth round, Itagaki and Imai touched gloves. Itagaki landed his hit first with a left overhand. Itagaki was hit with a body blow that almost made him fall before catching himself before both boxers hit each other in a dual exchange. After receiving combinations, Itagaki fell down. Not wanting to look bad in front of his senpais and being proud to be their kōhai, Itagaki stood up. Remembering what Imai said to him about what they are looking forward to is different, he contemplated that what they have seen is what is different. With one minute remaining, Itagaki blocked and dodged Imai's barrage of punches until one finally connects. As Itagaki began to lose his footing, he remembered what Ippo would do: attack. He threw a barrage of punches before losing all of his strength. Imai tried to hit the defenceless Itagaki, however, his fist couldn't reach him. The gong sounded for the match and Itagaki fell onto Imai's held out fist, hanging onto to it with his body.
Itagaki listened to the results of his match, which ended in his victory by one point, making Itagaki the East Rookie King. Itagaki was thrown up into the air in celebration by his kōhai. Before being transported to the hospital, Itagaki thanked Ippo for saying to not lose, something he heard just by looking at his expression when Ippo went to him after the fifth round. Itagaki was taken to the Kawai Hospital and was visited by Ippo the next day. Ippo congratulated and expressed how envy he is was about Itagaki fighting his rival in the tournament. When Ippo claimed that Itagaki and Imai seemed like friends since Imai held Itagaki to prevent him from falling at the end, Itagaki told Ippo to take that back. Imai came in the room and gave Itagaki tapes of the Western Rookie King, Hoshi Hiroyuki's matches. Itagaki remembered their promise they made before the match and ordered Imai to kneel down and apologise, which he was about to do until Nanako arrived, making him leave as Imai didn't want her to see him do that.
After getting his temperature checked by Kumi, Itagaki was encouraged by Imai to leave the hospital to train to take the All-Japan Rookie King title against Hoshi. However, he was held back by Imai when Nanako wanted Itagaki to stay until he is supposed to be released. Arguing to be let go, Itagaki calmed down when Kumi told him to rest. When Itagaki was able to be released from the hospital, he was driven to the Kamogawa gym by Ippo in his vehicle. When he got there, he was shocked to learn that it was decided that he would be resigned from the All Japan Rookie King Tournament due to the injuries on his left hand and achilles tendon. Later, Itagaki learned from Ippo about his meeting with Hoshi and the terms he put in order to challenge Ippo being that Hoshi would have to defeat Itagaki in order to fight Ippo. After Ippo talked about how he would worry about who would hold the JBC featherweight belt after he moves on, he gave Itagaki a baton pass. Itagaki promised Ippo to keep going until he brings the JBC featherweight belt to the gym when Ippo lets go of it.
Later, Itagaki went with Ippo to watch the All Japan Rookie King Tournament for the other weight classes. While there they met Date, who heard that Ippo's eighth featherweight JBC title defence would be against Take Keīchi, who Date informed the two that he was someone he did not want to fight during his time as the JBC featherweight champion, barely escaping fighting him due to Take backing out for a reason he does not know. As Date left, Itagaki claimed that the fight with Take would end in a knockout victory.
Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch Ippo's seventh JBC title defence match against Take. Before the match began, Itagaki felt that Ippo would have no problem as he seemed to be in good spirits. Itagaki watched as Ippo defeated Take by knockout in the sixth round.
The next day, Itagaki learned at the Kamogawa gym that Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura have matches in March at the Ryōgoku Kokugikan. After informing Ippo about their matches, Ippo asked Itagaki if he wanted to come with him to Miyata's fifth OPBF featherweight title defence the next day, but Itagaki claimed that he has to pay his high school coach a visit. When Ippo returned to the gym after watching Miyata defeat Che Jounbong in his fifth OPBF featherweight title defence, Kamogawa informed everyone that Miyata injured both fists during his match against Che, causing the match between Ippo and him to be postponed.
On the day of Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura's matches, Itagaki arrived with Ippo to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan and learned from Fujii that Mashiba would be fighting Sawamura in the Champion Carnival in his seventh JBC junior lightweight title defence match. After watching Aoki and Kimura's matches ending in a draw against Papaya and Eleki respectively, Itagaki was shocked to see fellow undefeated Japanese bantamweight Ishii Yūta lose in his world title match. Itagaki then watched Takamura easily defeat his first WBC middleweight challenger, Richard Fox.
Knowing that Mashiba specifically chose to fight Sawamura, Itagaki wanted to know why Mashiba chose him. Upon Mashiba's request, Itagaki went to the Tōhō gym to spar with Mashiba. Before sparring, Itagaki learned that Mashiba chose Sawamura because he noticed that after fighting Kimura, he has been lacking bloodlust due to his workplace and gym has been nice to him and the gym has been depending on him. He also learned about Mashiba's promises he made in front of his parents' grave that he wouldn't rely on anyone and anyone that lays a finger on Kumi would pay dearly. After a few days of sparring with Mashiba, Itagaki returned to the Kamogawa gym and left everyone surprised when his face had hardly a scratch. Later, Itagaki learned from Ippo how Sawamura once grazed Kumi with a close fist in front of Mashiba, realising that Mashiba chose him to get revenge. Itagaki arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch Mashiba's seventh JBC junior lightweight title defence match against Sawamura. Itagaki watched as the match ended with Mashiba getting disqualified in the sixth round after knocking Sawamura out of the ring while the referee paused the match. At the gym, Itagaki found out that Sawamura got in a high speed motorcycle accident while he was going home and was taken to the hospital.
After Ippo got off the phone with Sendō, Itagaki learned that Sawamura retired. After Kimura expressed his excitement over Mashiba being disqualified and Sawamura retiring so that he could have a chance at the champion title, Ippo stopped talking to him. Five days later, Itagaki mentioned to Ippo how he understands how Kimura feels, as someone with a long career like him is glad to have another chance at the belt. While Ippo was wondering how to make up with Kimura, Itagaki suggested that he should be more worried about Kumi, who has been alone and depressed since the match. Later, due to players from Kimura's local shopping district's baseball game dropping out, spots were needed to be filled for the local team. Itagaki was one of his friends Kimura called to invite them to the shopping district's team. When the day of baseball game arrived, Itagaki went to the stadium and was assigned to the Santei Japan team with Kimura, Aoki, Ippo, and Takamura. The game resulted in Kimura's shopping district team's victory.
Later, Itagaki travelled to Osaka with Ippo to watch Sendō's main event match against Jose Ramirez. Inside the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Itagaki watched the semi-final consisting of Hoshi and Bunsaku Krati fighting. Itagaki witnessed Hoshi defeating Bunsaku with only one punch using his Seiken. Itagaki then watched Sendō defeat Jose and met with him after the match. Itagaki, Sendō, and Ippo 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 the two 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.
Days later, Itagaki was informed at the Kamogawa gym that Hoshi has requested a match against him, with a deal that it has to be in Osaka and that if Itagaki loses, Hoshi gets to fight Ippo for the title. However, since Itagaki is a six-rounder and needed to be an eight-rounder to fight against an JBC ranker, Itagaki was scheduled to fight in one more six round match to become an eight-rounder. Three weeks later, Itagaki arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall to fight in his six round match. When the match began, Itagaki had trouble dodging his opponent's attacks due to seeing his opponent attack with a weird rhythm. After having a slug match at the final sixth round, Itagaki won by decision.
Later, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch a club mate from his amateur days, Suzuki, fight in his pro debut match. After watching Suzuki win by decision, Itagaki met up with him to congratulate him. Itagaki wondered why Suzuki moved up to junior lightweight, which Suzuki answered that he didn't want to go against him, Imai, Ippo, or Miyata. Itagaki was shocked when Suzuki mentioned his gym mate, Miyata only told him "good luck" as he left for his pro debut match. As Suzuki was excited about ippo and Miyata having a match together, Itagaki warned Suzuki that his senpai is strong, which Suzuki also tells him the same. Itagaki congratulated Suzuki before leaving.
After having trouble against Aoki in a spar, Itagaki was made fun of by him since Aoki doesn't want Itagaki to surpass him in the gym's internal ranking. Itagaki had trouble keeping up with Ippo while doing roadwork, lamenting how out of shape he seems to be. Itagaki's spirits rose when Ippo reminded him of the baton pass he gave him to take his JBC featherweight belt. A week before his match against Hoshi, Itagaki was interviewed by Fujii and Mari on his comment about inheriting Ippo's title if Ippo relinquishes it. Itagaki commented that he will make sure his senpai's belt returns to the Kamogawa gym.
When his match against Hoshi arrived, Itagaki went to the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium and was anxious in the waiting room due to the fact that he could lose from just one of Hoshi's punches and that it is a ten round match. Before the match, Itagaki was advised by Shinoda to focus and watch all of Hoshi's movements. When the match began, Itagaki focused on Hoshi's movements and noticed that Hoshi is moving in slow motion while throwing at a punch towards him. Confused, Itagaki easily countered Hoshi, earning a down. When Hoshi got up, Itagaki enjoyed himself as he let Hoshi's punches hit as close as they can without letting Hoshi touch him. While effortlessly dodging Hoshi's punches, Hoshi threw out a punch for Itagaki to counter in order to hit Itagaki with a dual exchange. However, Itagaki's speed let him throw out multiple counters before Hoshi could throw out one punch, knocking him down. The referee ended the match without a count, resulting in Itagaki's victory as Itagaki jumped around in excitement. Afterwards, Itagaki earned respect with the crowd after commenting with a pun during the victory interview.
When Aoki was making his call on getting his revenge on Takamura for his antics, he decided to get his revenge as Itagaki learned that Takamura was called to the Chūka Soba after it closes. When Itagaki along with Takamura, Kimura, and Ippo arrived, Aoki claimed to want everyone to try some new ramen with a sparrows nest in it, though unbeknown to them that it was only the bird faeces inside of the nest in Takamura's. However, before the four ate, they switched bowls to their liking. Kimura received a phone call and had to leave, giving his bowl to Aoki. Itagaki ate the ramen and Aoki ended up eating the one with the bird faeces in it.
When Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura learned that the match between Ippo and Miyata was put off, Itagaki got his friend Suzuki from the Kawahara gym to go to the Chūka Soba, where Aoki offered Suzuki ramen if he answered why the match was put off for Miyata to take on the OPBF title match. However, Suzuki did not know why Miyata did so. Later, Itagaki witnessed Kamogawa kicking Ippo out of the gym due to Ippo losing all motivation to continue hitting the mitts after Miyata cancelled his match with him. With Ippo absence from the gym, Itagaki tried to get Ippo to go back to the gym after a day of working at the fishing boat, however, ippo ignored him. Back at the gym, when Kimura suggested that Ippo may not come back since Ippo was probably going to retire after his fight with Miyata, Itagaki argued that he could move to the world, however, Kimura pointed out that he never said he wanted to do that.
Itagaki went with Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura to their training camp. After returning from the training camp, they noticed a match poster featuring Ippo and were excited to see Ippo in the gym. They learned from Ippo and Yagi that he is going to fight the Thai featherweight champion Jimmy Sisphar. When Ippo's match against Sisphar arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch the match with Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura. Before the match began, Itagaki went to Ippo's room and informed him that Sisphar was defeated by knockout from Ponchai Chuwatana, thinking that the match should be easy since Ippo defeated Ponchai before, however, Ippo disagreed on underestimating his opponent. Itagaki watched as Ippo wins the match by knockout in the fourth round. After Ippo received a lecture from Kamogawa, Itagaki walked the injured Ippo home, stopping when he gets close enough for Ippo to walk himself home to not worry Hiroko.
Training for his upcoming match, Itagaki sparred with Aoki. After Takamura came back from a trip, he showed everyone at the gym his new Beetle's Uppercut that he planned to use in his upcoming match, demonstrating the technique on Aoki. Later, Itagaki went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan for his match against Alex Harker. Itagaki defeated Harker by knockout in the first round. Afterwards, he watched Takamura's second WBC title defence match against Rickey Mouse, which ended in Takamura's victory by a one round knockout. In the venue's changing room, Itagaki took a group photo with his gym mates.
Later, Itagaki was shocked that he did not move up in the monthly JBC rankings despite his knockout win, however, Shinoda was unsure that Itagaki would even move up in the next month's rankings due to his recent opponent not being a Japanese ranker. Later, Itagaki and Ippo attended Miyata's non-title match against Donnie Sultan, which was his first match coming back from injuring both of his fists. Itagaki watched as Miyata won using a new counter that was meant for Ippo. Walking away from the venue, 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. They were then approached by Mr. Sakaguchi, who proposed a deal to Ippo for the shortest path to the world title, with the condition of defeating Randy Boy Junior, the OPBF interim champion. However, when Ippo declined the offer since he is confident that Miyata would defeat Randy, Mr. Sakaguchi laughed since he saw no way of that happening. Itagaki questioned Mr. Sakaguchi if he saw the new counter Miyata used to win by knockout, Mr. Sakaguchi told him that history has proven otherwise that counters won't work.
Later, Itagaki learned from Yagi that Randy is the son of the boxer that counter user Miyata's father was defeated by. Later, Itagaki, Ippo, and Kimura were surprised to see Isamu and Hiroshi hitting the sandbags, learning from Aoki how Isamu and Hiroshi were geniuses at school, but simply wanting to practise boxing for fun.
A freelance trainer named Kurita Baron entered the gym claiming to be sent to the gym to look after things while Kamogawa was away. Inspired by Baron's words on how they are unpolished gems, Baron put Itagaki, Ippo, Aoki, and kimura through harsh training. 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, Itagaki and his gym mates tried to run with Yagi to go see Kamogawa, however, they were told by Shinoda to return to the gym. Itagaki stayed with his gym mates overnight until Kamogawa returned. When Fukui Kyōsuke came to the gym to request a spar with Ippo, Itagaki tried to have him spar him instead, however, Fukui wished to only spar with Ippo. Itagaki watched the spar, which ended in Ippo knocking Fukui out in the first round. While doing roadwork with Ippo, they discussed how Ippo's next opponent, the Philippines featherweight champion Malcolm Gedo has magic that disrupts depth perception, which Itagaki joked that Gedo's arms might be able to extend. After hearing from Mashiba that he beat Ippo in a spar, Itagaki met Ippo while he was doing roadwork to check on him. Seeing how Ippo isn't badly injured, Itagaki assumed Mashiba was exaggerating, however, Ippo disagreed. When Gedo arrived to the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki peeked into the office where a heated conversation took place between Kamogawa and Gedo about Gedo only caring about the money and doesn't know anything about Ippo. It was decided that the winner would be rewarded two million yen.
When the day of Ippo's match against Gedo arrived, Itagaki was asked to loan Ippo money to help him gather an extra 500,000 yen to give Gedo if Gedo beats him. Itagaki gathered 50,000 to give him. Itagaki watched the match with Itagaki, Aoki, and Takamura. During round six, Ippo was having trouble and when Takamura mentioned that Aoki and Kimura would be thieves if Ippo loses due to them taking money from their jobs to give to Ippo for his bet, the four Kamogawa gym members tried to find a hint to tell Kamogawa to help Ippo. After Aoki figured out the hint with keywords "range," "swell," "shake," Itagaki informed Kamogawa about it. Itagaki watched as the match ended in Ippo's victory by knockout in the eighth round. Afterwards, Itagaki went to Ippo's room in the venue to congratulate him.
Two days later, after Itagaki did roadwork with Kimura, they went to the Chūka Soba after Aoki had to close early due to popular demand. Aoki showed them Isamu and Hiroshi's report chart about their boxing skills, including Ippo's. As Itagaki and Kimura were upset about their rating, they saw Aoki's rating was so high that it goes over the paper's border, they claimed that it would be impossible for Aoki, making Aoki depressed. At the gym, Aoki vowed to prove to Itagaki and Kimura that he is not just about ramen, by becoming champion. However, after realising that he is ranked seventh, Kimura's also ranked seventh, and Itagaki is ranked eighth, Kimura and Aoki wanted to move up to avoid Itagaki surpassing them in the gym's internal ranking system. Shinoda revealed a way for all three of them to go up in the rankings by taking the Class A Tournament, which Itagaki accepted.
When Fujii entered the gym, Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura asked him to draw a graph about their abilities. After seeing their graph, with Itagaki's speed being noticeably higher than anything else, Fujii explained how a spiked rock like Itagaki would stay in the pro circuit by not falling through a square filter if he puts his best attribute forward, making the spiked rock cling to the net. Later Itagaki asked Ippo to see him at the Kōrakuen Hall. When Ippo got there, Itagaki had him meet Team Itagaki, his two kōhais that joined the Kamogawa gym six months ago, wanting them to introduce themselves to Ippo only when they succeed in their pro test. Itagaki planned to have Team Itagaki become pros to surpass Team Aoki and move up in the gym's internal ranking. While there, Itagaki and Ippo met Karasawa and Saeki Takuma, who both claim that they are entering the Class A Tournament to become ranked first and take Ippo's title. As Ippo revealed that Itagaki was also partaking in the tournament, they did not know who he was, to which Itagaki warned them that he would make them learn his name. When Team Itagaki finished their pro test, Itagaki learned that they both got knocked down and did not pass the exam. While Ippo and Yagi were worried about Team Itagaki, Itagaki feels that he can only worry about himself since he is good against in-fighters, but hasn't had experience against an out-boxer yet, nor against anyone faster than him.
While working at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Itagaki tried to get Nanako to go home since her help isn't needed, however, Nanako didn't want to leave because Kumi was around. As Nanako claimed that Kumi shouldn't get in the way, Itagaki replied that she shouldn't get in Ippo and Kumi's way. When Nanako asked if it bothers Itagaki noted how he is jealous of Ippo having a belt and Kumi, but sees it as natural for his goal to have things that he wants and knows that Ippo will relinquish the title one day and with him at the top rankings, he would take the title. When Itagaki got back to the Kamogawa gym, Aoki and Kimura made fun of him as they inform him that Team Itagaki quit the gym.
When Randy came to Japan and sparred at the Otowa gym, Itagaki was requested to spar against him. Itagaki went with Shinoda and Ippo to the Otowa gym and entered the ring to spar against the OPBF interim champion. Before the spar, Itagaki noticed Randy's pressure and mentioned to Ippo that if anything odd happens, to take over for him. When the spar began, Itagaki focused while in a no-guard stance. Being able to see all of Randy's movements, he dodged his punches while connecting with his own with counters and jabs. In the second round, Randy used his Switch Hitting style to his advantage and Itagaki was knocked down twice due to his rhythm getting affected by Randy switching his stances. Unable to fight after the second down, Itagaki was carried out from the ring by Shinoda and Ippo. As Ippo was looking to spar against Randy, Itagaki mentioned to Shinoda that there is one round left since the three round spar ended in two rounds. The spar for one round between Ippo and Randy was stopped before it started by Mr. Sakaguchi as he wants Randy to fight Ippo only if Ippo puts his world ranking on the line.
After Mr. Sakaguchi and Randy left, Itagaki told Ippo, Mari, and Fujii that he didn't know how he went down and thinks that he is out-boxers' worst match up. Imai arrived at the Otowa gym with a beaten face and claimed that Miyata can win. Itagaki laughed at Imai for getting beaten and not being able to hit Miyata. Itagaki learned from Imai how Miyata sparred with him and a southpaw to get used to Randy's Switch-Hitting style. Itagaki and Imai, acknowledging that there is always someone better than them, both agree that they would show Miyata and Randy one day. Walking home with Imai, Itagaki asked who he thought was stronger between Miyata and Randy, which Imai answered that it is Miyata, however, Itagaki disagreed from his experience of fighting Randy. Itagaki and Imai argued about how Imai thinks that being an out-boxer feels like a pain and Itagaki thinks that it is simple being an in-fighter. When Itagaki arrived to his house, he became annoyed as his parents invited Imai in for dinner. Itagaki and Nanako were annoyed as Imai bragged about having problems with living in his big house and were shocked that Imai chimed in with his own puns with their parents. After dinner Itagaki walked Imai home and asked what Imai will do next, which Imai revealed that he would increase his strength the long way for the inevitable battle for the JBC featherweight title.
At the Kamogawa gym, after Itagaki watched Takamura defeat three boxers at the same time in a spar to one up Miyata's two on one spar, Itagaki learned that Kimura and Aoki would be openers for Takamura's third WBC middleweight title defence against Ronald Duck in April, along with Miyata facing Randy in the semi-final. To help Aoki prepare for his match, Itagaki sparred with him. After learning that Miyata's two on one training is done and they want to have Ippo spar with Miyata, Itagaki informed Ippo, but mentioned that Kamogawa would be angry so he can't do it. Since Miyata needed someone with good uppercuts, they wondered who they could get to help until they remembered Sendō could do it. Later, Itagaki informed Ippo that he has a match after Takamura's that leads to Mashiba's return match. When Sendō came to the gym, he revealed 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. Itagaki arrived with Sendō, being his second for his spar against Miyata until Sendō stopped the spar since he felt Miyata understood his strength. Itagaki was shocked when Yanaoka arrived to scold Sendō and that Yanaoka and Miyata's father once fought each other.
A week later, while Itagaki 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, who accidentally pulled Takamura's pants down, making Takamura have an urge to defecate on the floor, with Kimura and Aoki having to clean it up. On the day of the weigh-in at the Kōrakuen Hall, Kimura went and passed his weight check. He went with the gym to the De La Hoya to recover his energy. When the day of Aoki, Kimura, Miyata, and Takamura's matches arrived, Itagaki went to the Yokohama Arena to watch them. Itagaki watched Kimura's match against Sim Rex, which ended in a doctor stop due to both sides bleeding too much on their face, and the decision ended in Kimura's loss. Itagaki watched Aoki's match against Ponsa Kureck which ended in Aoki's loss by decision. Itagaki watched Miyata's OPBF featherweight unification match against Randy, which ended in Miyata's victory by knockout in the seventh round and then Takamura's third WBC middleweight title defence against Duck, ending in Takamura's victory by knockout in the tenth round.
After Aoki and Kimura ran out of the gym due to Takamura making fun of their losses, Itagaki followed them to try and pump them up. To prepare for his upcoming match he sparred with someone from another gym and Ippo. When his match against Kaonar Pachiyoso arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall and was underestimating his opponent since he never won in Japan. Itagaki noticed that Karasawa and Saeki were there to watch him, which distracted him when the match began. During the second round, Itagaki began to concentrate on the match, dodging Pachiyoso's attacks with his increased speed and downed him with an uppercut. When Pashiyoso got up and came to Itagaki with a right, Itagaki struck him with a Jolt Counter, after only seeing the technique from when Miyata used it against Randy. Pashiyoso went down from the counter and was unable to continue, resulting in Itagaki's victory. Afterwards, Itagaki watched Mashiba fight for the OPBF lightweight title against the champion, Aaron Domingo, which ended in Mashiba's victory by knockout, becoming the new OPBF lightweight champion.
While training with Ippo, Itagaki was asked 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. Itagaki was embarrassed as he saw that as praise. Returning to the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki listened as Kamogawa announced before going on a trip that he, Aoki, and Kimura have matches in the Class A Tournament in two months, along with Ippo fighting the Indonesian featherweight champion who fought and won only three fights by knockout. Itagaki watched the video that the Indonesian champion's side sent with everyone, where they only see nature shots without any sign of the champion. The next day, Itagaki found out that Ippo saw the champion in the video leading a pack of monkeys. Itagaki informed Ippo that the Indonesian champion's trainer is the same trainer that was with Hawk: Miguel Zale.
Later, Itagaki was excited to find out that he will face against Karasawa in the first round of the Class A Tournament and possibly Saeki in the semi-finals if he wins. After sparring with Kimura, he went with him and Ippo to shower and discussed how they should raise the gym's reputation by winning the Class A Tournament. Itagaki followed Ippo through his roadwork along with Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura, who surpassed the four in speed. While watching Ippo and Kamogawa prepare for his match, Itagaki discussed with his gym mates how Volg sent a warning by a phone call to Ippo after Volg sparred with the Indonesian champion, which they believe Ippo should be cautious of his opponent.
On the day of Ippo's match against the Indonesian featherweight champion Wally, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall to watch the match with Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura. Itagaki watched as Ippo won by knockout in the eighth round. Seeing Ippo win, Itagaki was motivated to win the Class A Tournament.
After helping at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Itagaki was approached by Mari, who wanted to talk to him about the Class A Tournament. Since he was about to do roadwork, they talked during his break. Mari mentioned that the editorial department has called Itagaki the fastest in Japan, however, Itagaki disagreed, noting Saeki, Karasawa, and Miyata. Mari claimed that Saeki has fast footwork, Karasawa has fast hand speed, and Miyata is fast in both, but can't maintain the speed for long due to weight restrictions, leaving Itagaki to be the fastest. Itagaki commented that he doesn't have the experience Saeki and Karasawa have and is not confident in himself, believing that he will never get the JBC featherweight belt. As Nanako went to go to Ippo's location while he was with Kumi, Itagaki knew that she would get in their way. Mari suggested for him to go with her, claiming that she knows that Ippo has everything his heart desires, which Itagaki replied asking what is wrong with wanting a cute girl like Kumi and being strong like Ippo. Knowing that he can not reach Ippo, Itagaki explained how he wishes to chase after Ippo and mentioned how Nanako has no chance with Ippo because of Ippo's obvious feelings towards Kumi, feeling that he relates to Nanako. After implying that Mari is in the same predicament as him and Nanako, she got embarrassed and Itagaki asked if she wanted to go on a date with him as fellow runner ups, which Mari replied that he is slick.
At the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki wanted to know what Kimura and Aoki's comment about the Class A Tournament was. They revealed that they wanted to steadily stack the odds in their favour and not worry about a goal in the far future, rather working on the objectives in front of them first. At the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Itagaki went to Ippo's room and looked into the boxing magazine about his match with Karasawa. He looked at the round and time of which Ippo defeated Karasawa, and made it his goal to beat Ippo's record of two rounds, two minutes and fifteen seconds. After having a hard time against Kimura in a spar, Itagaki went to the rooftop of the gym and discussed with Ippo about his upcoming match against Karasawa. Itagaki asked Ippo what round he thinks that he will beat Karasawa in, which Ippo answered that he thinks it will go to a decision. At his house, he questioned himself if he set his goal too high, but knows that he needs to win the Class A Tournament to stay high in the ranking to get the vacant JBC featherweight title when Ippo relinquishes it.
When his first match of the Class A Tournament against Karasawa arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall and started his goal of beating Ippo's time against Karasawa as the match began. In the first round, Itagaki and Karasawa commenced an high level exchange match where neither landed a hit for a long period of time due to their speed until Itagaki landed a hit. Knowing that he is faster than Karasawa, Itagaki planned to throw a counter and then combinations until the referee stops the match. Itagaki threw fast lefts at Karasawa, however they get blocked. Karasawa fired back with his own attacks, of which Itagaki dodged. When Karasawa threw a right, Itagaki had the punch hit his face and spun his neck to negate the damage while using the momentum to throw a counter, hitting Karasawa. Itagaki saw another counter chance after Karasawa threw a right and hit Karasawa with a Cross Counter. Itagaki went on the attack again, throwing punches at Karasawa's block. Itagaki stepped back after noticing that Karasawa is going to attack. The two entered an exchange where Itagaki outclasses him in speed, and after successfully hitting him a couple times Itagaki went to use Miyata's Jolt Counter, however, he was knocked down after Karasawa hit him, much to his surprise. After having trouble getting up, Itagaki dodged his punches, and attempted another Jolt Counter, but he got hit again, this time staying up as he didn't fully step in to counter. Thinking that Karasawa may be faster, Itagaki stepped back. Itagaki went on the attack and was hit at every attempt. Itagaki tried to use the Dragonfish Blow, however, his fist hit Karasawa's forehead when he went for the overhand. The first round ended, and at the corner, Shinoda's advice was to pay attention.
In the second round, Itagaki could not get close to Karasawa due to getting hit by lefts when he goes near him. Itagaki decided to go faster than Karasawa's eyes can track him while bobbing and weaving, attacking his block with lefts and dodging his attacks. Having trouble landing a hit through his tight guard, Itagaki began to focus to try and find a hole in Karasawa's guard. After hitting through Karasawa's high guard at the sides, Karasawa tightened his guard. Itagaki was able to make him drop his guard after hitting it with rapid lefts, planning to hit him with a right the next time he succeeds. Karasawa dashed toward Itagaki to try and attack him, however, Itagaki stepped back and hung onto the ropes before moving behind Karasawa. After pausing his offence, Itagaki continued again, relentlessly using fast lefts on Karasawa's guard until he hits him, causing Karasawa's head to bounce up. With Karasawa's face open for punching, Itagaki hit him with multiple left jabs, and when he went to throw a strong right, it missed as Karasawa fell down from the lefts. The referee quickly ended the match, resulting in Itagaki's victory, letting him move to the finals.
After celebrating in the ring, Itagaki went to his venue's room and asked his seconds what the knockout time was. Learning from Yagi that it was two minutes, thirteen seconds, Itagaki was overjoyed that he beat Ippo's time by two seconds. Itagaki was met by Ippo, who gave him a wet towel and suggested for him to rest. While Ippo was discussing about how Saeki's Class A Tournament match could turn out, Itagaki was more concerned about how close he has gotten to Ippo and that he beat Karasawa faster than he did, reaching out for Ippo unconsciously before stopping himself, worried about what he was about to do. Itagaki watched Kimura's match against Ryūzaki Takeshi and Aoki's match against Jackal Itō, which both ended in Kimura and Aoki's victory by decision. Itagaki congratulated the two when they returned to their venue's room and watched the Class A Tournament fight between Katsutaka Imae and Iga Shinobu which would decide who Aoki would be fighting in the finals. Itagaki watched in shock as Imae was effortlessly defeated by Iga, who had Baron as his trainer.
Itagaki celebrated his, Kimura's, and Kimura's victories at Kimura's place. After talking about women and Aoki thinking Kimura is a lolicon due to him having an anime figure from a magical girl series, Kimura revealed that he has a girlfriend and gave Itagaki, Ippo, and Aoki extra tickets to an amusement park that he was taking his girlfriend to. While Ippo thought Kimura was telling the truth, Itagaki knew that Kimura was lying.
Wanting to use his tickets, Itagaki contacted Mari to take her to the Nermina Park for a date. When they arrived to the park, Itagaki unintentionally insulted her by calling each other runner-ups and fellow rejects, and was the only one enjoying the rides at the attractions. After taking a break from the rides, Itagaki was interviewed by Mari about his match with Karasawa, being asked how he was able to disappear from Karasawa's sights in the second round. Itagaki explained how his senses accelerate when he gets focused, and he can see every twitch their muscle makes and every breath they take, being able to do feints as he can also see their eyes move. He was asked if he was purposely trying to beat Ippo's time against Karasawa and if he thinks he has caught up to Ippo. Itagaki commented that there was no way he caught up to him and his match with Karasawa reminded him how great Ippo is. Itagaki then saw Ippo and Kumi, and Aoki and Tomiko. 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 Itagaki and the others see Kimura with a little girl. Aoki called the cops and had Kimura arrested. Itagaki and Ippo then arrived at the police station after Kimura was proven innocent. They apologised to him and walked him home.
At the gym, Kimura learned that before the Class A Tournament finals, Takamura, who was away on a trip, was having a fourth WBC middleweight title defence and Ippo was having an eighth JBC featherweight title defence against Kojima Hisato, a former lightweight ranker who moved down to the featherweights. Itagaki thought that a boxer from two weight classes higher wouldn't be able to keep up with a featherweight's footwork before being reminded by Kimura that Ippo isn't known for his footwork. Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall with Ippo and Aoki to watch the Class A Tournament match between Saeki and Maezono Makoto to see who he would be facing in the finals. When they got there, they met Kojima. While he was friendly to Aoki, Kojima made remarks to Ippo, which caused him to leave early. Itagaki yelled at Aoki for not attacking Kojima for what he said to Ippo as he stayed to watch Saeki win against Makoto. While doing roadwork with Ippo, Itagaki noticed that Ippo wasn't mad at Kojima for what he said, which made Itagaki tell him that he would be mad if someone made a fool out of the opponents he fought like Kojima did him. When Umezawa visited Ippo his the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Umezawa showed Ippo and Itagaki the latest boxing magazine issue where 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 doing roadwork with Ippo, Aoki, and Kimura, they spotted Takamura, who came back from his trip and pranked Aoki before giving Ippo advice. Later, Itagaki saw Ippo being easygoing and planning to use Takamura and Kamogawa's advice combined when he fights Kojima, which left Itagaki irritated, as he was looking forward to seeing Ippo's unknown wild side. Itagaki went to the Roigal Hotel, where Ippo's weigh-in and Takamura's weigh-in and press conference were being held. Itagaki stayed with Ippo after the weigh-in with Kojima, where Kojima insulted Ippo. After Ippo left, Itagaki went to Takamura's press conference and informed Takamura that Ippo left, making Takamura mad as Ippo told him that they would eat afterwards. The next day, Itagaki went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan for Ippo's match against Kojima and Takamura's match against Peter Rabbitson. Before going to the audience seats to watch Ippo's match, Takamura asked for Itagaki to remind Ippo of his advice to cool him down, however, Itagaki wants to see Ippo when he is heated so he decides not to. Itagaki watched Ippo's match against Kojima, which ended in the first round with Ippo's one punch knockout victory, and Takamura's match against Rabbitson, which ended in a one punch knockout victory in the final twelfth round.
When Ippo came to the Kamogawa gym to discuss his victory against Kojima, Itagaki had to walk Ippo home when he showed signs of a fever. Being worried about Ippo's condition, he called Kumi to check on him. After Aoki went with Mari to see Kojima, he informed Itagaki and the others that Kojima retired. To prepare for the finals of the Class A Tournament, Itagaki went with Ippo to another gym to spar. After getting beaten in the spar, a depressed Itagaki walked with Ippo, who tried to cheer him up by saying that everyone has a bad day. When Ippo became suspicious that he, Aoki, and Kimura were hiding something from him, Itagaki revealed to Ippo that Aoki and Kimura were thinking about retiring after seeing someone around their age in Kojima retiring. Later, when Takamura informed Aoki about a weakness he found where Aoki closes his eyes before getting hit, making him get hit more, Itagaki, Takamura, and Kimura made fun of him until Ippo arrived and stopped them. Ippo had Aoki recover his suppressed memory so he could find a way to get over his trauma by using Tomiko's hypnosis. When Aoki revealed it was Takamura's fault, the gym members came up with a plan for Aoki to overcome his fear of Takamura to cure his trauma that affected his boxing. Itagaki, Ippo, and Kimura held Aoki while Takamura threw rights at Aoki's face with protective gear on his head until Aoki was able to keep his eyes open and describe the type of punch Takamura threw, curing his trauma.
The night before the Class A Tournament finals, Itagaki read the magazine article for Ippo's match against Saeki, making it his goal to beat his knockout time in order to compete with Ippo without challenging him for his belt. The next day, Itagaki arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall for his Class A Tournament finals against Saeki. Before his match, Ippo wished him to do his best. When he arrived to the ring, Itagaki did an entrance pose called "Itaga-kiin" on the corner post. Before heading to each others corner to start the match, Itagaki assumed Saeki was going to try and get revenge on Ippo, telling Saeki that he won't let him, however, Saeki mentioned how he has only thought about Itagaki.
When the match began, Itagaki focused and entered his Bullet Time. Itagaki became surprised when Saeki was able to keep up with his speed and throw a Flicker Jab, which Itagaki knocked away. Itagaki and Saeki attempted to hit each other, however, neither could land a hit even with Itagaki's Hedgehog and Saeki's Flicker Jab barrage. The two race each other around the ring while throwing punches until the first round ended, with neither landing a hit the whole round. Before walking to the corner, Itagaki hit Saeki's right hand since he knew that Saeki hasn't thrown his right yet. At the corner, Itagaki was advised by Shinoda to not over complicate things and to keep going after Saeki.
In the second round, after dodging each other punches, Itagaki noticed Saeki throwing his first right of the match, which he saw as a slow telegraphed punch. Disappointed, Itagaki threw a counter. The right turned out to be a feint as Itagaki was hit with Saeki's left from Itagaki's blind spot. Saeki proceeded to feint with both his left and his right, leaving Itagaki confused as to which punch will be real, getting hit multiple times. Due to Saeki targeting Itagaki's right eye, Itagaki became unable to see out of it as it has swollen shut. Saeki began using Itagaki's swollen right eye to his advantage, going outside of Itagaki's vision and hitting him with a full body left before the second round ends. At the corner, Itagaki played an animal-themed game of Shiritori with Shinoda, who started it to get Itagaki to relax. Itagaki was told by Shinoda to have fun and not to take anything seriously.
In the third round, Itagaki continued to get hit by Saeki, who threw punches from Itagaki's blind spot. Itagaki remembered playing Shiritori with Shinoda and decided to play it in his head while shuffling his feet by using the Ali Shuffle. Itagaki began to dodge all of Saeki's punches and even get out of the corner, seemingly disappearing from Saeki's sight when he tried to attack Itagaki at the corner. Expanding on the Ali Shuffle, Itagaki used the Itagaki Shuffle, a full body feint, to confuse Saeki with rapid random movements to successfully hit Saeki multiple times from different angles. The third round ended as Itagaki and Saeki land a hit on a each other in a dual exchange. At the corner, Yagi asked if Itagaki's depth perception was off since he landed many hits despite his right eye being still swollen. Itagaki mentioned that he was seeing the ring from above. Realising that the fourth round is next, Itagaki proceeded to focus in order to be Ippo's knockout time.
In the fourth round, Itagaki started with the Itagaki Shuffle while Saeki put up his guard. After landing hits on Saeki's guard, both boxers circle around the ring, and Itagaki got hit with a left due to his lack of depth perception. Itagaki used his Itagaki Shuffle and hit Saeki with two body blows before retreating to do the shuffle again. Itagaki hit Saeki on his high guard with a barrage of left and rights, with some landing through the small holes in the guard. When Saeki's guard broke, Itagaki dodged a one-two before hitting Saeki with a counter for every punch he throws until he blocks again. Itagaki entered his shuffle and attempted to hit Saeki on his side, however, Saeki discovered him and landed a counter on Itagaki. Itagaki and Saeki enter a middle range exchange with both even at first until Itagaki slowly began to dominate, ending the exchange with a powerful right. Saeki began to throw a barrage of punches at Itagaki. Itagaki dodged while getting into his range to throw his own barrage of punches, which hit Saeki until he fell down. When Saeki got up, Itagaki hit him with a left as Saeki stumbled, making Saeki fall onto the referee. The referee saw Saeki being unable to continue and ended he match, resulting in Itagaki winning the match and Class A Tournament while earning the title of "Speed King." Seeing that he beat Ippo's knockout time, Itagaki celebrated in the ring with the "Itaga-kiin" pose.
Going back to the venue's locker room, Itagaki watched Kimura's Class A Tournament finals, where he lost by decision. Itagaki watched Aoki's Class A Tournament finals against Iga, where it ended in Aoki's loss by knockout in the seventh round. After the matches ended, Itagaki was crowned the MVP of the tournament. Due to Baron having Iga beat Aoki without knocking him out until he was satisfied, Aoki sustained severe injuries. Itagaki went with everyone to take Aoki to the Kawai Hospital. Later, after working at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, he, Ippo, and Kimura went to visit Aoki at the hospital. While Itagaki and Ippo were worried that Aoki and Kimura were going to quit, Kimura decided to let Aoki decide whether they quit or not. When they got to the hospital, 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.
After receiving his prize money, Itagaki took his family to the Koedo Sushi as his treat. However, when they got there, Itagaki and Nanako were shocked to see Saeki as a chef there. While Itagaki wanted to go somewhere else to celebrate, his parents were already eating. Itagaki felt down, but Saeki insisted that he shouldn't look sad. Itagaki decided to eat and complained that Saeki was moving too slow as the sushi belt was empty. Saeki got irritated and put extra wasabi in his sushi in attempt to give to Itagaki. However, his father ate it instead and passed out from the spiciness. Later, Itagaki and the other gym members overheard Kamogawa and Yagi discussing moving Ippo onto the world stage. They burst into Kamogawa's office to hear that Ippo would fight the second in the world, Alfredo Gonzales, to gain the attention of Ricardo's management. The next day at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Itagaki informed Ippo that Volg has a title match set up.
Itagaki mentioned to Ippo that Volg's title match was against the IBF champion, which would take place in Las Vegas in a week as he was a stand-in, only fighting the champion due to the original challenger hurting himself during training. Later, when Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura returned to the Kamogawa gym after having watched Volg win against Mike Elliot and become the IBF junior lightweight champion, they find Ippo in the gym's ring passed out after he sparred with Sendō, who came to watch Volg's match with him. After they patched Ippo up, they went to Kamogawa's office and learned that Ippo's JBC featherweight title has been relinquished and that Itagaki would be fighting for it in his next match while Ippo focuses on the world title.
At the Makunouchi Fishing Boat, Itagaki informed the customers that he would be taking the JBC featherweight title and that Ippo would be going for the world, causing that customers to get excited. At the Kamogawa gym, Aoki informed Itagaki that he would be sparring with him since Itagaki's opponent is an in-fighter. Not knowing who his opponent for the title was, Itagaki was shocked to learn from Ippo that it is against his rival, the second ranked Imai, who he is confident to be able to defeat. As Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura discussed with Ippo about his plan against Alfredo and wondered if he could win, Takamura entered the gym and concluded that he can. Takamura explained how he noticed the headline of the recent Monthly Boxing Fan reading "Makunouchi's cocked and ready". Kimura, Takamura, and Aoki made fun of the headline, annoying Itagaki and Ippo. Itagaki saw his father outside the gym and learned that he got laid off from work again before his father left with a pun about Ippo pulling out his "holy sword" from the stone, the Excalibur.
Later, Ippo asked Itagaki about Imai, which Itagaki told him 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. Later, Itagaki watched Ippo train with Kamogawa's method of going against Alfredo's left that is similar to Ricardo's by using a extendable and bendable stick with a boxing glove. When his weigh-in arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall, where he passes his weight check and met Imai. The next day, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall for his match against Imai for the vacant JBC featherweight title. Before heading to the ring, he saw Ippo, who wished him luck, and Itagaki mentioned that he hasn't forgotten about the baton pass he received from him.
When the match began, Itagaki was focused, but still at the corner as Imai rushed to him. Trapped at the corner, Itagaki threw out three left hooks, which the first two hit, while the third one hit as well, but Itagaki was hit at the same time on the shoulder in a dual exchange, causing Itagaki to get pushed back into the corner post. Itagaki attempted to escape to the left, however, he was hit by a right body blow and a left hook, causing him to go down. When he got back up, Itagaki focused again while doing feints with his head and arms as his legs need time to recover. Itagaki dodged Imai's rush of close ranged attacks at the corner with only his upper body while giving out attacks of his own. Itagaki tried to get out of the corner, but Imai is pinning him into the corner. Itagaki decided to attack Imai to get him off with a hit to the jaw, however, it turned into a dual exchange as he was hit with a liver blow. Itagaki lowered his guard to get a counter ready, countering Imai as he went for a a left body blow. Itagaki was then pinned to the corner post again and was pounded with many body blows. When Itagaki blocked a body blow, Imai went for his head, which Itagaki anticipated. Itagaki began to throw a counter at Imai's high punch, however, he saw himself throwing his punch slowly as he got hit by Imai's right. The referee ended the match as Itagaki's seconds immediately got into the ring, resulting in Itagaki's loss and Imai becoming the JBC featherweight champion.
Getting up, Itagaki congratulated Imai before walking away from the ring in tears for dropping Ippo's baton. Itagaki watched Ippo's match against Alfredo in his room at the venue. Itagaki watched in shock as Ippo lost the match by knockout in the seventh round. Afterwards, Itagaki walked to the Makunouchi Fishing Boat with Ippo, Aoki, and Kimura.
The next day, Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura frantically went to find Ippo after he left the house since he might run into Takamura, who may make fun of Ippo. When they find Ippo, Takamura was already nearby. The three were relieved when Takamura didn't make Ippo upset. They were surprised when Kumi showed up and was the one who rubbed Ippo's loss in by showing him the paper of his loss, making him realise he did lose. Later, when Ippo returned to the gym, Itagaki learned that Takamura has a unification match against the WBA middleweight champion as the main event, with a world flyweight title match, Sendō's match, and Mashiba's match before it.
When the event arrived, Itagaki went to the Yokohama Arena to watch the matches. While Takamura was sleeping while waiting for his match, Itagaki noticed Mashiba and Sendō having an argument in their waiting room. Itagaki went to the audience seats to watch the first match consisting of Mashiba's first OPBF lightweight title defence match against Romeo, where it ended in Mashiba's victory by knockout in the fifth round. Itagaki watched Sendō's match against Jose Nargo, which ended in Sendō's victory by knockout in the eighth round. After watching Sendō's match, Ippo asked Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura if they make excuses when they lose. They confirm that they do, with Itagaki's excuse being that if he knew what Imai was going to do and if he had room to manoeuvre, he would have won.
After Itagaki watched Tsuchiya lose the world flyweight title match, he, Aoki, Ippo, and Kimura go to Takamura's ringside as Takamura arrived to the ring to fight Richard Bison. Itagaki watched as Takamura won, making Takamura both the WBA and WBC middleweight champion.
At the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki 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 Kimura, Ippo, and Aoki, a discussion arose about how far could they go, with Itagaki stating that he needs to get the JBC featherweight belt back from Imai. Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura discuss Ippo having the right tools to become a world champion, but his mindset of being inhuman seems impossible, not knowing what it would take to change his core. Later, during a "parade" for Takamura's win against Bison, Itagaki had to leave the vehicle that was driven by Ippo after Takamura attacked Aoki and Ippo left the car to check on him, leaving the vehicle to get wrecked. When Fujii entered the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki listened to Fujii's explanation about the shape of one's fists, and when Itagaki clenched his fist, he noticed that it looked more pointier than Ippo's, which Fujii noted that he deals sharp penetrating damage because of its shape. When Aoki showed his round and soft fist, Itagaki and Kimura made fun him. Itagaki was surprised when Shinoda entered the gym and heard how Fujii and him were boxers once.
Later, after Kamogawa, Yagi, and Shinoda informed Kimura and Aoki that they have ranked matches before Iga's JBC lightweight title match Aoki revealed that he has a new upgrade for one of his techniques. Itagaki watched him spar with Ippo to showcase it, knocking Ippo down with his Bell Horn. Later, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall to see the matches. Itagaki was disappointed when he saw Satou, who he sparred with previously, lose his match and is bound to retire as his losses caught up to his wins. Itagaki watched Kimura's match as it ends in a draw and Aoki wins his match by knockout. Itagaki then watched Iga's JBC lightweight title match against the champion, Ōshima Sōshi, where it ended in Iga's victory by knockout in the sixth round, making Iga the new JBC lightweight champion.
At the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki watched Ippo spar with Matsuura, where Ippo showed his Dempsey Roll with a new vertical movement. While shadowboxing, Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura were watching Ippo train his new Dempsey Roll with Kamogawa, frightened at how the technique now comes at many angles. Later, Itagaki watched Ippo spar against Nagumo Ryūji, which ended after Ippo was easily downed and Kamogawa stopped the spar. When Ippo was banned from the gym for one month by Kamogawa, Itagaki, by Kamogawa's orders, stopped Ippo from doing any serious training in order for him to not strain his body. Itagaki was annoyed by Ippo's complaining until Mari arrived to take him shopping for "magic" that will allow him to work on the Dempsey Roll without doing much. Later, having learned that Ippo went bowling, Itagaki went with Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura to the Funa Bowl to watch him and, if he gets a score lower than 100, then they would know he is punch drunk, as he has been suspected for it. When they see Ippo get a gutter ball and haven't hit any pins as seen on the score board, they became worried. They soon noticed that Ippo is wearing weights on his wrists and ankles while bowling. Later, Itagaki went to the Funa Bowl, where the Kamogawa gym commenced a bowling tournament.
After a month of Ippo being banned from the gym, Itagaki and his gym mates welcomed him from the rooftop as Ippo walked to the gym. As Ippo entered the gym, Kamogawa had him do two tests before his return can be accepted. After he passed both tests Itagaki and his gym mates celebrated. When Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura were doing roadwork and Ippo joined the first time since his return, they were surprised to see him run faster than them. Later, Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki watched Nagumo's WBA junior lightweight title match on the gym's television, which ended in Nagumo's loss. Later, while Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura were doing roadwork for their upcoming matches, they find Ippo, who hoped that they would win. When their matches arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall. In the match, Itagaki lasted until the end, where it ended in his victory by a close decision.
When Ippo's come-back match opponent, Antonio Guevara was revealed to be a southpaw, Ippo asked Itagaki how to fight southpaws, which Itagaki helped Ippo come to a conclusion to use his right more than his left and to keep moving left with his foot on the outside. Later, Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki watched as three southpaws leave the gym injured, making them think that they don't have to worry about Ippo, but Takamura, who is having troubles with his weight management. When Ippo's come-back match against Antonio and Takamura's WBC and WBA middleweight title defence match against Keith Lycaon arrived, Itagaki went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan to watch the matches. Itagaki watched as Ippo lost to Antonio in the fourth round by knockout and Takamura wins his match by knockout in the first round.
Later, after Ippo announced his retirement to Kamogawa and Yagi, Ippo told his gym mates goodbye, including Itagaki. On the rooftop, Itagaki asked Kimura if Ippo has any regrets, to which Kimura mentioned that only he knows and that Ippo was smiling as he waved goodbye. When Takamura was asked what he said to Ippo when he passed him, Takamura revealed to Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura that he asked Ippo if he scored any treasure in his adventure, to which Ippo replied that there are too many to hold.
After Ippo retired, Itagaki quit his job at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat in order to give Ippo space and began working at his father's security company. Two months after Ippo retired, Itagaki watched Imai's second JBC featherweight title defence match where he won by a first round knockout and Itagaki was shocked when Imai claimed in a victory interview that he wanted to fight Ippo. Later, Ippo decided to help as a second for the Kamogawa gym, making him Kimura's second in his upcoming match. Ippo joined Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki while doing roadwork. Itagaki and Aoki were shocked that Ippo could still surpass them in running. They discussed with Ippo about Kimura's opponent. When Kimura's match arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall. Before Kimura's match, Itagaki watched Hayami Ryūichi's match. Itagaki asked Aoki about Hayami's current ranking, and was surprised to find out he isn't ranked and is continuing his boxing career despite losing so much. After Hayami lost his match, Aoki laughed at Ippo's antics as a second as he watched Kimura's match, which ended in Kimura's victory by knockout in the seventh round. After the match, Itagaki, Takamura, and Aoki went to do some karaoke as Ippo and Kimura head home.
Later, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall for his match with Ippo as his second, excited to show Ippo something good to get praised by him. When his match began, despite using a Neck Spin and a counter, Itagaki was criticised by his senpai. In the next round, Itagaki skilfully dodged all of his opponent's attacks. However, at the end of the round, Ippo queried as to why Itagaki didn't throw any punches, to which Itagaki believed it will be enough if he just throws one hit that counts. In the next round, his opponent threw a flurry of punches to Itagaki's guard, when he saw an opening, Itagaki threw a Liver Blow. When the round ended, Itagaki was met with more criticism as Ippo mentioned that not throwing punches will let his opponent get into rhythm. In the next round, Itagaki threw a big swing that turned into an exchange that hurt Itagaki more than his opponent. Both boxers landed hits on each other until Itagaki landed an uppercut that downed his opponent, but he quickly recovered. At the end of the round, Ippo asked Itagaki if that really is his boxing, shocking Itagaki. At the final eighth round, Itagaki, flustered, threw a flurry of punches as his opponent does the same. At the end of the round, Itagaki won be decision. Outside the venue, after Itagaki was told by Ippo that winning with just force isn't his style of boxing, Itagaki storms off.
Later, after Ippo saved Teru Okazaki from some bullies, Ippo took him to the Kamogawa gym to try boxing. Itagaki did not expect anything from Teru, but was impressed of Teru's drawing skill of the main bully when Teru draws a picture to put on the sandbag When it turned out that Teru had a weak punch, Aoki and Kimura picked on Ippo, scaring Teru away.
At the Chūka Soba, Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki discussed about Miyata's eighth OPBF featherweight title defence match and how Miyata should move up to the world, as Itagaki believed he might get snatched up by an underdog. Aoki and Kimura don't think it will happen, but Itagaki asks them what proof do they have that shows he won't lose. Later, when Ippo visited the gym to get boxing gloves and mitts, he saw Kamogawa. Ippo and Kamogawa then had a mitt practise session that Itagaki, along with the other gym members watched in amazement. After learning that Ippo is training Taihei and that Taihei used to be a bully, Itagaki decided to check it out. After watching Taihei leave after a training session and listening to them talk, Itagaki mentioned to Ippo that Taihei doesn't have any respect and believes that he hasn't turned over a new leaf, suggesting for Ippo to wash his hands of Taihei before he gets in trouble. However, Ippo reassured Itagaki that Taihei has changed.
When Itagaki, Kimura, and Takamura arrived to the Chūka Soba after finding out that something happened to Ippo, Aoki informed them that he left to turn himself in to the police. After learning that Ippo is turning himself in after he smacked Taihei in the face and learned from Umezawa that Ippo was making an inhuman face during which, Itagaki left to see Ippo. Outside the police station, Itagaki saw Ippo, who was unable to turn himself in, and claimed that that a slap isn't enough for Taihei to file a police report as he lives and breathes fighting, however, Ippo disagreed, wanting to be punished.
A week later, Itagaki ran with Ippo, mentioning how he should relax as there has been no report filed. As Ippo became sad when he sees the tree where he always met Taihei at, Itagaki got annoyed and stated that Ippo should think about the people in front of him. Itagaki explained to Ippo that he's in a slump, because he practices like usual but he's not improving and doesn't know what happened that caused him to lose in his last match. Confused by Ippo's reply that it is good that he is in a slump, Ippo noted how only people with incredible talent gets in a slump, which is why he never was in one, making Itagaki jealous. As Ippo talked about the line, Itagaki found out that Takamura drew the line, something that Itagaki always wondered why Ippo ran around it, and that Ippo was told to not cross it if he wants to stay human.
At the Kamogawa gym, while Itagaki and the others were talking about the situation with Ippo and Taihei, Takamura came to a conclusion that the real villain is Taihei's older brother and prepared to show off his "Special 7-Years Killing: 100 Shots" that he will use on him. Itagaki and his gym mates were shocked when A bald Ippo entered the gym and asked for Kamogawa in order to say his apologises. For Ippo to atone for what he has done, Taihei, along with Kintarō Kaneda, joined the gym and Kamogawa had them be under Ippo's training. After it was revealed that Taihei is Aoki's younger brother, Aoki Taihei, Aoki and Taihei were remembered by Itagaki, Ippo, and Yagi as being in a TV show called "Heartwarming Special Presents: The Hectic Life of an 11-Person Family". Later, Itagaki followed Ippo, Taihei, and Kintarō as they did roadwork. When they took a break, Itagaki was shocked as Miyata approached them.
Watching Ippo talk to Miyata from afar, Itagaki stopped Taihei and Kintarō after they tried to attack Miyata due to his attitude. After mentioning to the two of Ippo's students that Miyata is the OPBF champion, Taihei assumed that Ippo was stronger, however, Itagaki noted that finding out who is stronger is a mystery that may never be solved. After Ippo and Miyata finished their conversation, Itagaki explained to the two that Miyata must have come to ask Ippo if he was punch drunk, noting that it is something that no one ever decided that he has and that he quit when there was a suspicion of it, wanting to spend time with his most precious person in the world: his mother.
When Takamura's WBC and WBA middleweight title defence match against Michael Goat arrived, Itagaki went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan to watch it. Worried at first about Goat's lefts, Takamura won by knockout in the second round, announcing afterwards that he is moving up to the super middleweight class next.
As Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura overlook Ippo training his students, Itagaki found out from Kimura how Aoki is worried about Taihei boxing due to the injuries that come with it, however, Aoki claimed he can entrust it to Ippo with it comes to injuries. They became curious as to why Ippo keeps calling out "1" to his students. They ask Ippo at the gym, which Ippo in turn showed them a notepad with numbers assigned to basic punches. Shinoda revealed that it is a Numbering System which requires an unshakeable teacher-student bond for a quicker reaction time and faster combinations. Itagaki, Aoki, Kimura, Taihei, and Kintarō enter the gym's ring for Ippo to test them to see if they can respond to his number calls in time. During the session, Ippo only called out "1", which is the left jab, making them angry and ask for a different number. Ippo, however, ended up calling out "1" again, which everyone but Itagaki fell for, making everyone quit. Itagaki lectured Taihei and Kintarō on how he predicted based on Ippo's personality and choice of boxer he shadowboxes against that Ippo would have thrown a "1", offering to treat them if they best him in the "Senpai Quiz."
While doing roadwork, Itagaki learned from Ippo that he is going to take Taihei and Kintarō to Date's gym where a sparring tournament was being held for boxers that haven't made their debut. Itagaki went with Ippo, Taihei, and Kintarō, watching Ippo's two students get defeated easily. Itagaki listened as Fujii entered the Date 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. Later while jump roping at the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki was shocked to see Sendō entering the gym unannounced. When Ippo and Sendō were being loud on the gym's rooftop, Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura checked up on them, where they see that the arm of the Takamura statue came off. After the head also fell off and leaving Aoki on the rooftop to fix the arm and head, Itagaki went to see Sendō off. The next day, Takamura came back from his trip and Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura inform him that the three of them have matches before Sendō and Alfredo's match.
While doing roadwork with Ippo, Aoki, Taihei, and Kintarō, Itagaki reassured a worried Ippo that Kimura would be fine during his weight management as Ippo has made a weight management plan for him. When the weigh-in for his match arrived, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall and was shocked to see Ippo carrying Kimura while both are bald. After passing the weight check, Itagaki went with the gym members to the Donaire to eat as Ippo explained Kimura's Dragonfish Blow strategy for his match. The next day, Itagaki arrived to the Kōrakuen Hall for his match and watched Kimura's match against Yoshimoto Junpei, which ended in a second round knockout victory for Kimura. Itagaki went to the ring for his match and fought his match to the last round, where he won by decision.
Itagaki went with Kimura and Aoki to the Kemuri Izakaya for a group self-reflection until Takamura arrived and made fun of them. As Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura wondered what would happen if Ippo returned to the ring after Kimura noticed Ippo's muscles were not that of a retired fighter and his knowledge is better than when he was active, Takamura stopped their conversation, presenting them the fact that Ippo will not return to the ring unless something forces him to face the obligations he has to bear, adding that it is pointless to think that "something" will come.
With Ippo being away since he went to Mexico to watch Alfredo, Sendō, and Ricardo fight, Itagaki decided to work for him at the Makunouchi Fishing Boat. At the Kamogawa gym's rooftop, Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura tried to ask Takamura what the "something" required for Ippo to return is that he mentioned, however, Takamura claimed it didn't matter and suggested for them to be worried about what will happen to Ippo in Mexico, joking that he may get into trouble. Later at the Kamogawa gym after Sendō and Ricardo won their matches in Mexico, Itagaki and Kimura were amazed of Sendō's strength while Aoki asked for them to not spoil him since he hasn't watched it yet. After Takamura knocked Kimura's wig that he was wearing and revealed that he has a Kappa hairstyle due to the way his hair grows from being malnourished, Takamura deemed the Kappa hairstyle to be weird, which almost caused him to laugh. Kimura insisted that they can laugh if they want, but Itagaki and Aoki understood that it is from harsh weight control. Takamura declared that he wouldn't laugh since he knows from experience about weight control and that if anyone laughs at Kimura, they would have to pay one million yen or get deported. Ippo soon arrived from Mexico at the rooftop with them and gave everyone wrestling masks that he got from Mexico as a souvenir. When Kimura took off his Kappa wrestling mask, his wig came off along with it, showing his Kappa hairstyle which matches the mask, causing everyone, including Itagaki, to laugh as Kimura shouted for everyone to pay up.
At the Kamogawa gym, while Ippo was doing 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. Itagaki mentioned to Kintarō how it is more difficult for in-fighters to hold mitts than out-boxers, as out-boxers already rely on rhythm and distance, making it easier to catch punches if one also was already good at seeing and dodging punches when they were active boxers. When Aoki and Kimura revealed to Ippo that while he was in Mexico, it was confirmed that Takamura is going to challenge the WBC super middleweight title, Yagi informed everyone that it will take place in Japan and gave Ippo the champion's profile, which was in English. Itagaki helped Ippo in translating the profile to Japanese, learning that the champion's name is Keith Dragon, along with Dragon's boxing information. When Takamura asked the gym members who the certain people are that will never be able to become a world champion, Itagaki and the others did not know the answer. Takamura pointed to Aoki, claiming that it is him, however, Takamura explained how anyone can be a world champion, even Aoki, but they have to try and challenge for it first.
Later at the Kamogawa gym, Takamura informed his gym mates of the bad omens he had at the Yamaguchi Chiropractic. With one of the bad omens being that he saw a black cat, Itagaki insisted that black cats are cute. Ippo suggested for Takamura to go get an Omikuji at the shrine he goes to. Takamura declined at first before going with Itagaki and Ippo 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 Itagaki pulled a medium 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. As Itagaki left, he told Ippo 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. Later, at the Kamogawa gym's rooftop, after Itagaki told Aoki and Kimura how Ippo reacted when he mentioned how Takamura's luck may have reached it's limit, they became shocked as Ippo shows them his collection of objects of good luck that he got to put in the lucky corners of the gym to purify the evil around them. Itagaki began to help grabbing the objects to place in the gym with his gym mates. Later, Itagaki learned from Ippo while doing roadwork, that Takamura saved a boy from getting hit by an incoming vehicle by going out into the road to grab him, then jumping on the vehicle's hood to avoid getting hit and landed safely.
Later at the Kamogawa gym, while Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki were talking about how Ippo's occult obsession is only hurting himself and that it won't matter in the match, Kintarō pointed out how sports players pray to God or have superstitions, believing that they should at least try if it could help any. Itagaki commented that it is likely a placebo effect that helps them. As Kintarō and Taihei wonder if they suggest that there is no God, Kamogawa told the group that it is irrelevant whether there is a God or not, as one only has their own two fists in the ring to believe in and that good luck and miracles will only appear when they believe in their fists and never betray them. The next day, the typhoon that was supposed to delay Dragon's arrival passed over, which he thought was strange. Itagaki, along with Kimura and Aoki 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 Itagaki, Kimura, and Aoki 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 have 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.
On the Kamogawa gym's rooftop, Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura watched as Ippo left with Yagi to the Otakugon to face against Dragon in mahjong, surprised to find out that Yagi was a professional mahjong player and was called the "King of the Underworld". Itagaki noted that they call Yagi "Yami" (Darkness) in the mahjong world. Itagaki wondered why Ippo is being brought with Yagi, which Aoki and Kimura explained that Ippo is his bodyguard since Yagi is so good that other players try to start a fight because they think he is cheating. On the night before Takamura's match against Dragon, Itagaki, Ippo, and the rest of the Kamogawa gym boxers went to the Chūka Soba after Takamura told Ippo, Taihei, and Kintarō to meet him there. 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, Itagaki found out from Ippo that Takamura even prayed at a shrine. After Itagaki and everyone else became worried about Takamura when Ippo found the voodoo doll he was supposed to give to Takamura for good luck, everyone became unimpressed of Takamura as he showed up looking in bad shape, claiming that Yamaguchi Tomoko threw him out again.
The next day, Itagaki went to the Ryōgoku Kokugikan to watch Takamura's WBC super middleweight title match against Dragon. He sat with Aoki, Kimura, and Miyata as the match was about to begin. Itagaki wanted to know Miyata's opinion on the match, however, Miyata mentioned that he has no opinion since Takamura hasn't fought in the super middleweight class before, and won't be able to determine if he can deal with the weight class barrier that stands in his way until the early rounds. After watching the first round, Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura decided to keep an eye on Takamura after Miyata claimed that there is something odd about Takamura. During the second round after Takamura caused Dragon to have a slip declared on him, Miyata figured that he was just over worrying about Takamura and noted how he is showing his great potential instead of a reason to worry about him going up another weight class, which Itagaki compared him being freed from weight control to a hawk being freed from a cage into the sky. During the third round when Takamura began taking multiple hits from left hooks and stumbled, Kimura and Aoki thought that Takamura's right leg must be injured, however, Itagaki pointed out that Dragon is a southpaw, making the left hooks more damaging. He also wondered why Takamura is taking such obvious punches while dodging the others. Itagaki cheered as Takamura wins in the fourth round, becoming the WBC super middleweight champion. As Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura discuss how Takamura was getting hit by wide left swings until he suddenly countered one, Miyata revealed a suspicion that he had about Takamura not being able to see out of his right eye, however, upon observation of how Takamura pulled off the counter near the end, he felt as if he has an answer to his suspicion that he can see out of it, relieving the Kamogawa gym boxers. Itagaki, Aoki, and Kimura arrive to Takamura's room in the venue to cheer for him on his victory, however, they were shocked to find out that Takamura was being carried home by Ippo.
At the Kamogawa gym, Itagaki and Kimura told Ippo how he, Aoki, and Kimura watched Takamura's world title match with Miyata, who's back looked lonely. When Yagi entered the gym, Itagaki 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, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall with Ippo to watch the title match between JBC featherweight champion Imai and the first ranker, Hoshi. Itagaki watched as the match ended in Imai's victory in the first round by knockout. Itagaki and Ippo 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. Itagaki was shocked to learn from the reporters that the opponent is the third ranker in the WBA and former Indonesian champion Wally. Later, he discussed the news with Aoki and Kimura, and how Ippo thinks that Ricardo chose Wally to come up with an anti-Sendō strategy since Sendō and Wally are like wild animals.
On the day of Mashiba's world title preliminary match, which Itagaki's match against a Filipino ranker is the semi-final of, Itagaki went to the Kōrakuen Hall. When Itagaki's match began, he scored two downs in the first round, however, his opponent had overtaken him in the final eighth round as he went down. Itagaki got up and was forced to go on the defensive until the final round ended. The match went into a decison, which Itagaki won. As Itagaki walked to his room, he came across Mashiba. While Itagaki was down because he cooled the arena, Mashiba was unbothered, telling him that he will freeze it solid.
|18||WIN||16-2-0||200X||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||8(8), 3:00||Decision||Semi-Final Match|
|17||WIN||15-2-0||1999-11||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||8(8), 3:00||Decision||N/A|
|16||WIN||14-2-0||1999-05||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||8(8), 3:00||Decision||N/A|
|15||WIN||13-2-0||1998-11||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||?(?), 3:00||Decision||Come-Back Match|
|14||LOSS||12-2-0||1998-03-21||Kyōsuke Imai||Tokyo, Japan||1(10), 0:55||TKO||"GO TO THE WORLD!"|
JBC Featherweight Title Match
|13||WIN||12-1-0||1997-11||Takuma Saeki||Tokyo, Japan||4(8), 1:28||TKO||Class-A Tournament|
|12||WIN||11-1-0||1997-09||Takuzō Karasawa||Tokyo, Japan||2(10), 2:13||TKO||Class-A Tournament|
(Rose to 6th JBC)
|11||WIN||10-1-0||1997-04-24||Kaonar Pachiyoso||Tokyo, Japan||2(10)||KO||"THE SECOND COMING OF DEATH"|
|10||WIN||9-1-0||1996-09-12||Alex Harker||Tokyo, Japan||1(10)||TKO||"OPERATION-WORLD DOMINATION"|
|9||WIN||8-1-0||1996-07||Hiroyuki Hoshi||Tokyo, Japan||1(10), 1:30||TKO||Main Event|
|8||WIN||7-1-0||1996-06||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||6(6), 3:00||Decision|
|7||WIN||6-1-0||1995-11||Kyōsuke Imai||Tokyo, Japan||6(6), 3:00||Decision||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Finals|
(Became ranked 10th in JBC)
|6||WIN||5-1-0||1995-09||Fumito Makino||Tokyo, Japan||2(4)||KO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Semi-Final|
|5||WIN||4-1-0||1995-08||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||?(4)||TKO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Quarter-Finals|
|4||WIN||3-1-0||1995-06||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||1(4), 0:15||KO||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Second Round|
|3||WIN||2-1-0||1995-04-13||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||4(4), 2:35||TKO||"BOXING MARTIAL ARTS"|
East Japan Rookie King Tournament First Round
|2||WIN||1-1-0||1995||Haseo Baraki||Tokyo, Japan||1(4)||KO||"MEMORY OF OMEGA"|
|1||LOSS||0-1-0||1994-10-14||Makino Fumito||Tokyo, Japan||1(4), 1:13||TKO||"APOCALYPSE NOW"|
Pro Debut Match
This list does not include the numerous spars Itagaki has had with his fellow gymmates.
- Amateur Matches: ?-?-3-? (? KO)
- VS. Imai Kyōsuke 4R Loss by KO (Unknown)
- VS. Imai Kyōsuke 4R Loss by KO (Unknown)
- VS. Imai Kyōsuke 4R Loss by KO (Unknown)
|Preceded by||Title||Succeeded by|
|Karasawa Takuzō||East Japan Featherweight Rookie King||Unknown|
Itagaki has a very toned and lean build suitable for both his weight class and fighting style. He has brown hair that stretches to the base of his neck, thin eyebrows and matching dark-coloured eyes. He seems to favour wearing headbands to keep his oversized bangs from obscuring his vision.
The newest member of the Kamogawa troupe is a remarkably friendly and cheerful young man. Itagaki's open personality allows him to get along with just about anyone, including and especially the fearsome Mashiba. Beneath his disposition lies a bitterness toward rival Imai (despite the latter viewing him as a friend) and the losses he experienced in the past. As opposed to Ippo, Itagaki has proven himself to be immature and overconfident of his speed and flexibility. He is rarely ever afraid of other characters.
Despite Ippo being his senpai, Itagaki often watches after him like an older brother, defending him during discussions about boxing and reassuring him when he loses confidence. He is attracted to Mashiba Kumi, though he tries to keep this a secret from Ippo and has never made a romantic advance on her out of respect for her and Ippo's relationship. He respects Ippo a great deal, but in truth, he is jealous of him and desires much of Ippo's fortune. Itagaki has made beating Ippo's KO times his primary goal. It is his unique way of challenging his idol.
Like the rest of his family, Itagaki possesses a terrible sense of humour and has the tendency to crack some lame puns. He states that this "Itagaki Family Way" is what keeps their family cheery from their poor financial situation.
He has an amazing boxing sense and is considered by many to be a genius of the sport. His depth perception, reflexes, and timing are all far above average. He has gone through several matches with his opponent completely unable to even touch him. He has been seen avoiding Mashiba Ryō's deadly Flicker Jabs in sparring sessions, and Mashiba claims that his speed even exceeds Miyata Ichirō's. His only weakness appears to be his small body's inability to withstand pain.
Like Miyata, Itagaki has weak punches, meaning that he doesn't have a punch that can severely injure an opponent. Although he has several KO victories in his record, he was never able to KO or even KD the fighter-type Imai Kyōsuke who was a hard-puncher. He also has a fragile body and is susceptible to body blows.
Like his genius boxer predecessor Hayami Ryūichi, he is notoriously cocky. Nearly all of his matches ended up troublesome when he decided to do something flashy or unnecessarily risky, such as experimenting with someone else's signature punch in the middle of a match. In the case of his title match with Imai, he lost because he didn't take Imai seriously, which resulted in him getting pinned down at the ring of the bell in his corner, where Imai had complete control. In the case of his Class A tournament matches, his eagerness to beat Ippo's KO times was the sole reason he had trouble at all.
It should also be noted that Itagaki sometimes has difficulties focusing during his matches, which in his case significantly decreases his performance. In the words of Shinoda: "His true strength only manifests when he's relaxed and focuses his concentration to its upper limits. That's what lets him use his true potential".
According to Mashiba, and as demonstrated during the Karasawa match, Itagaki adopts a repetitive pattern of moving forward and backward from his opponent when he becomes frustrated.
Main Article: Itagaki Manabu/Gallery
- Itagaki didn't win the title of All Japan Rookie King championship because his fight with Imai Kyōsuke had left him in a bad condition for a long time, and unable to meet the deadline of the final match. However, after defeating Hoshi Hiroyuki, the boxer he should have fought for the title, many characters now consider him the All Japan Rookie King.
- When entering the ring, he always jumps onto the corner post and shouts "Ita--gakiiin!!!", simultaneously making the pose from the anime Magnerobo Ga-Kiin. "Gaakiiin" is short for gathering energy. After sweep wins he is known to perform a backflip in his corner.
- Although he and Imai purport to dislike each other, they still refer to each other by their first names, "Manabu" and "Kyōsuke".
- Itagaki is based on "Sugar" Ray Leonard, one of the fastest boxers of all-time.
- His "Ali Shuffle" comes from the taunting tactic performed by former World Champion Muhammad Ali. Both Ali and Leonard were trained by the same person and were known for their speed and exceptional outboxing skills.
- The nickname "Chronos" that the announcer gave him during one of his matches, was because of his incredible speed. ("Chronos" - "Χρόνος", which means "time" or "year" in Greek), comes from the Greek Mythology, Chronos, who was imagined as the god or entity of time.