Takuma Saeki (冴木卓麻, Saeki Takuma) is a semi-recurring character in Hajime no Ippo.
He is a former featherweight professional boxer affiliated with the Kawai Boxing Gym. His most prominent matches in the series were against Makunouchi Ippo, Sendō Takeshi and lastly Itagaki Manabu, upon finally retiring after that match.
Saeki was an Olympic representative that was considered a superior technician as an amateur boxer. It was theorised that Saeki would have won in Barcelona (where 1992 Olympics were held) if he entered.
He used to attend a sports university, in Tōyō Sport University, where he was part of their boxing club as an amateur boxer. While there, the club developed special equipment that only he could use. Saeki was never fond of the fact that one could achieve the same victory for touching someone with gloves as knocking them out completely. Soon after, Saeki left the team and turned to the pro ring where he climbed the ranks and eventually became known as Speed Star for his unmatched speed and flexibility in the ring.
Saeki, ranked second in the JBC, entered the Class A Tournament and was scheduled to fight fifth ranker Makunouchi Ippo. Later, he sparred against the JBC champion Date Eiji. Saeki avoided every punch Date threw throughout the spar until it ended. Date expressed his annoyance towards the "speedy' types such as Saeki, who took Date's comment as a compliment. Saeki later visited the Tōyō Sport University and talked to his former captain of the boxing club about how he prefers professional boxing over amateur boxing. When the captain mentioned how he believed there is no thrill for Saeki if the punches never hit him due to his speed, Saeki pointed out that the thrill was still there, as his next opponent has the strongest fists in the nation.
On the day of his Class A Tournament match against Ippo, Saeki greeted Ippo in the weigh-in room. Knowing that Ippo took a break from the sport, Saeki wondered if he was ready and told him to give it his best against him.
When the match began, Saeki kept his distance from Ippo, going in a clockwise motion around him while Ippo stood still and simply stared at Saeki, who began to get uncomfortable. Despite knowing what Ippo was doing, Saeki was unable to hold back, and advanced. Even though he blocked a punch, he was still sent back against the ropes. Realising Ippo's strength, Saeki advanced and delivered a quick right that stunned Ippo. Saeki began dodging Ippo's attempts to hit him multiple times. Saeki then was surprised to find himself in a corner. Having the upper hand, Ippo attempted a combination, but Saeki dodged all attacks and escaped the corner, leaving Ippo astonished. Despite having the advantage in position, Ippo was unable to land a single clean hit on Saeki, with the gong sounding after Saeki dodged a jab, ending the first round.
When the second round began, Saeki dodged Ippo's punches and got trapped in the corner again. In the corner, Ippo threw left jabs to force Saeki to the right so he could land a body blow on him. Saeki however, utilised the ropes and dodged. Saeki then began to use Flicker Jabs, hitting Ippo multiple time. The Flicker jabs caused Ippo's right eye to close due to swelling. Saeki then hid in Ippo's new blind spot and hit him with a straight as the gong rings to end the second round. When the third round began, Ippo attempted to get closer to Saeki to create a smaller blind spot, however Saeki opened the distance and got into Ippo's blind spot again, landing hits on Ippo's face multiple times. As Saeki was about land the finishing blow, Ippo fell forward, leaning on Saeki as the third round ends. In his corner, Saeki asked his coach if his rhythm was off. The coach informed Saeki that his rhythm had not been off at all since round one.
When the fourth round began, Saeki moved into Ippo's blind side once again until Ippo threw a punch into his blind spot, making Saeki step back to avoid getting hit by "lucky" punches. After Saeki hit Ippo again from his blind spot, he made another attempt, however Ippo realised where he was coming from and landed a punch on Saeki's face and then a body blow, making Saeki go down. When the shocked Saeki stood back up, he got back into Ippo's blind spot only to be hit again and pushed out of Ippo's blind spot. Ippo then threw punches that get dodged. Saeki noticed that his body keeps freezing up. Ippo landed a punch to Saeki's face again and then an uppercut, knocking Saeki down. Saeki got back up immediately but he was clearly in no condition to fight as he fell on the referee, ultimately losing the match.
After the match, Saeki visited Ippo, asking how his position was figured out. Ippo responded that Saeki's precise rhythm was what helped him figure out the position, Saeki then reflected on the irony of his perfect rhythm being the reason he lost, and left the room.
Saeki attended the Pro Test at Kōrakuen Hall to watch his Kouhai take the test, where he met Karasawa Takuzō. They saw Ippo at the Pro Test too. Karasawa noted that it had been while since they fought. Karasawa asked Ippo if he had trouble finding challengers for his title, while Saeki joked that it must be hard for him being good. Ippo disagreed, when Saeki mentioned that he still planned to take Ippo's belt. Karasawa told him that he planned to get ranked first too. If Ippo still had his belt when it happened, he planned to challenge him for the title. Saeki mentioned he was ranked 3rd, while Karasawa was 5th at the moment, and they both planned to enter the Class A Tournament. Saeki told him that he planned to take first and the prize money, but Karasawa believed it would be him. They noted that the 7th seed from Yamagata, Fukui Kyosuke will be in it too. When Karasawa thought that was all the notable names in the tournament, Ippo mentioned Itagaki Manabu will be in it too. They didn't know who he was, where Ippo was surprised since he goes to his gym. Itagaki told them that they would be learning his name whether they wanted to or not. They thought it was interesting, and wanted to met again inside of the ring.
Saeki and Karasawa attended Mashiba Ryō's OPBF title match, where they ran into Ippo and Mashiba Kumi. Saeki joked that it must be nice that Ippo was out with his girlfriend. They told Ippo that they were there to see Itagaki 's match. They noted that Itagaki had a pretty good reputation, where they thought it would be good idea to check him out before the tournament started. Ippo mentioned that he was really good, but Saeki thought they woukd know soon enough as they went inside. When Itagaki was entering the ring, after he noticed Karasawa and Saeki in the crowd, he started to smile. During the match, Itagaki was distracted when he kept looking at Karasawa and Saeki, but he managed not to take any damage in the first round. Saeki thought Itagaki was fast, but he hasn't shown off his best yet. In the 2nd round, Itagaki motivated and changed his stance. Karasawa wondered how Itagaki will handle the opponent after he comes at him aggressively. During the match, Itagaki start to showcase his speed. Karasawa and Saeki were shocked when they saw Itagaki land an uppercut counter that caused a down. The opponent was able to stand, and went on a suicide attack when Itagaki thrown a Jolt Counter to end the match. As Itagaki started to celebrate his win, Saeki and Karasawa were leaving. Saeki wondered what would happen if Itagaki fought more experienced boxers. When Saeki and Karasawa looked back at Itagaki, he was standing on the corner ropes yelling that he would be the Ace of the Class A Tournament, which made Saeki interested in Itagaki.
Saeki attended the first round of the Class A Tournament to check out Karasawa vs Itagaki match. He ran into Sanada Kazuki and Ippo in the hallways. He told Ippo that he got seeded high that he didn't have to fight today, and he thought they should watch the match together. He believed he would be lucky if he could hear their commentary on the match. Sanada joked by calling him a spy, but Saeki mentioned as an active boxer, they can never be too careful. When the Ring Announcer announced the next match, the crowd perked up. Saeki was surprised, and thought there might be a high profile boxer up next, but Sanada didn't think any were for Karasawa. Saeki admitted that rookies do tend to have a lot more that comes with them. Sanada thought that Itagaki wasn't doing too well, where he felt Karasawa should be able to deal with him because of his experience. When Saeki asked Ippo thoughts, Ippo was cheering for Itagaki.
Saeki attended Ippo's match against Kojima Hisato. Prior to the match, he ran into Sendō Takeshi, where he saw Sendo admiring the fight poster. Saeki mentioned that Kojima seemed to have been talking trash for awhile, since they both lost to Ippo, he thought it was natural for them to see how it turned out. Sendo disagreed, and told him that he lost to Ippo and him. Saeki didn't think anything of it, and point it that it might not happen again. They started to argue when Date Eiji and Okita Keigoarrived. Date greeted them, where Sendo recognized Date, but not Okita until Saeki told him that he was a trainer from Date's Gym. Date was surprised to see Sendo by himself, when Sendo told him that Sawamura Ryūhei wasn't interested in coming. Sendo thought it would get depressing if anyone else who lost to Ippo appeared when Mashiba Ryō and Mashiba Kumi arrived. Sendo told Mashiba to leave, and Mashiba started to take offense to it, when Date told them that losers should learn to get along. They start to be hostile toward Date, when Okita told them to show some respect toward his head coach. Date told Okita that it was okay since they were probably bitter that he actually won against Ippo. Sendo thought Date barely won, where it was nothing to brag about when Date countered that it wasn't something a two time loser should say. Sendo believed Ippo was a bad match up for him, when he thought Date would lose easily, but Date told him that he wasn't too old to go tiger hunting. As Mashiba and Kumi were heading inside, Sendo and Date commented that Mashiba was someone who lost to Ippo, he lost to someone that lost to Ippo too, which made him the weakest. Mashiba now mad started getting into a yelling match with them over it until Kumi stopped it and they all went inside.
Inside, Date, Okita, Saeki, Sendo, and nearby was Kumi and Mashiba seated together. They were discussing their thoughts on Kojima. When Ippo met Kojima at the center of the ring, Sendo didn't like the fact that Kojima was looking down on Ippo, or Ippo wasn't looking Kojima in the eyes. Okita mentioned that Ippo's not that type of guy, and Saeki agreed. Date thought something was different, since Ippo had his eyes on the ground since he entered the arena. he thought Ippo was too tense. After the match started, Kojima was able to land one punch on Ippo, but Ippo was able to withstand and land a counter of punch of his own that down Kojima and allowed him to win. When the match ended, Saeki commented the crowd probably liked the match, but he felt it was simple for a Japanese title match since boxing was suppose to be about striking the opponent while dodging their punches. Sendo thought it was an exchange of their best punches, which were the best matches to watch. Okita asked Mashiba that since he was a lightweight if he would go down to a punch from someone two classes higher than him. While grabbing Okita's shirt, Mashiba said not from a bitch like Kojima as Kumi tried to stop him. Date was praising Ippo and Kamogawa, Saeki and Sendo were debating the match, while Mashiba was picking a fight against Okita for his comment. Later, they watched Takamura Mamoru the arena for his match wearing a badly painted Panda outfit as he made his way to the ring. The crowd started booing and throwing trash at him.
Saeki with Date, Okita, Sendo, Mashiba, and Kumi watched Takamura barely defeat Peter Rabbitson. Date invited everyone after the match to Mayweather Bar to celebrate. After a few drinks, Date and Sendō get into a disagreement about him defeating Ricardo Martinez. Mashiba added his thoughts about it, which made the the atmosphere more tense. Kumi tried to play peacemaker between them, since she was worried there would be trouble if she didn't come along. Mashiba and Sendō started to get into it, while Saeki tried to help her calm things down. Date (while drinking) asked them why they were angry, but then added he knows it is because of Takamura. He criticised Takamura's match and his poor performance in it. Date thought Sendō might be disappointed with it after coming from Osaka for it. Sendō agreed. Okita, Saeki, Mashiba and Kumi decided to complain about Takamura in order to lighten the mood.
After Mashiba mentioned Takamura's Panda outfit, Kumi was about to agree with him when she noticed it at the bar. They then all noticed Takamura sitting there with it. Takamura got up to started to leave, but he decided to block the exit instead. Date continued to increase the tension by criticizing Takamura, which scared Mashiba, Sendō, Okita, and Saeki. Mashiba told Kumi to go out the back exit while he tried to buy time. Kumi tried to get them to stop and not fight, but (drunk) Date told her to either back them up or be quiet. Date asked Takamura that if he think he can fight with this group and not expected to come out of it in one piece. They charged at him and end up getting into a bar fight. They end up losing, and Kumi putting bandages on them after the fight.
Prior to the Class A tournament finals, Karasawa visited Saeki at his work place. Saeki treated him to some food, while Karasawa thought Saeki looked used to his uniform. Saeki noted been part of him since his college. Karasawa thought it would be hard for him during weight control, but Saeki told him that he was used to it, when he asked about Karasawa's suit. Karasawa planned to enter the workforce. Saeki confirmed that he was retiring. Karasawa figured that since he lost to a fighter type, his only solution was to improve his speed. He worked hard at being faster, so fast no one would be able to follow him. In the end, it was just a lofy goal that he hoped to get close to, where he didn't think anyone could actually pull it off, but after fight Itagaki, he saw his ideal right in front of him. He lost track of someone up close before, but Itagaki vanished at long range. He believed Itagaki's at a leval that he could never reach. He wished he was like Itagaki, who can overwhelm powerful fighter using his speed, and becoming champion. He decided to leave that dream toward Itagaki's. Saeki thought Karasawa was making Itagaki out to be an iconic speed boxer while ignoring him. Karasawa thought they will find out soon enough who the best after the tournament. He thanked Saeki and was about to leave, when Saeki mentioned Karasawa was giving up too easily. He asked him if he was hurt or sick, but Karasawa told him his body was fine. Since he can't be the most powerful or fastest, there was no place for him in that world at this time. After he left, Saeki chased after him to see if he had any regrets. Karasawa started to smile at him, then stopped, and preceded to do something shadow boxing as he continued to walk away. Saeki saw how frustrated he was, and that he had regrets.
During the match, Saeki severely overwhelms Itagaki by showing superior speed in the preliminary rounds. In the later rounds however, Itagaki uses his own version of the Ali Shuffle (known as the Itagaki Shuffle) to catch Saeki off-guard. Saeki, with a weakened body and failing legs, ultimately falls to Itagaki's newfound strength.
|15||LOSS||12-3-0||1997-11||Itagaki Manabu||Tokyo, Japan||4(6), 1:28||KO||Class-A Tournament II|
|14||WIN||12-2-0||1997-10||Maezono Makoto||Tokyo, Japan||5(6)||KO||
Class-A Tournament II
|?||LOSS||?-2-0||1993-07||Sendō Takeshi||Osaka, Japan||1(10), 1:07||KO||JBC Featherweight Title 1st Defense Match|
|5||LOSS||4-1-0||1992-7||Makunouchi Ippo||Tokyo, Japan||4(6), 2:12||KO||
Class A Tournament
Saeki has a muscular complexion, as with most boxers and a relatively darkened skin tone. He grows his dark brown hair long and shoulder length, choosing to tie it up in a pony tail during boxing matches and training. His eyebrows are thin and his eyes are slanted with dark brown/black pupils.
Based on his dialogue to his Former Boxing Club Captain, Saeki is a thrill seeker, where he likes being put in a life or death situation that a Professional Boxing ring has.
Saeki is essentially a hard worker with a passion for boxing. He has utmost confidence in his legs and his speed in the ring, a confidence he fortifies through a sparring match with Date Eiji where the latter failed to catch him even once in multiple rounds. Despite hearing that Date disliked his style of fighting, Saeki took the statement as a compliment. Unlike any other character in the series, Saeki seems to share a personal bond with his legs and feet, frequently mentally conversing with them to keep himself standing in fights. He calls his legs guys, as shown in his fight against Itagaki when they were failing him.
He is on good terms with previous gymmates as well as opponents in the ring, and displays excellent sportsmanship regardless of the outcome of the match.
Saeki is a famous out-boxer with the ring name "Speed Star" for his unmatched speed and prowess in matches. When researching Saeki, Ippo noticed that when Saeki was throwing successive jabs, he moves around the opponent in a clockwise pattern.
During the spar with Date, Fujii Minoru noticed that Saeki's posture is where his knees and legs are bent and his hands are over his knees (similar to stances taken by baseball players where they can easily shift their weight to go in any direction, where as standard pose makes shifting weight for dashing and retreating easier. However, it makes going to the side more difficult.) Date comments that his style is similar to Terry Norris (WBC JR Middleweight Champion) and Pernell Whitaker (Former World Lightweight Champion.)
As an out-boxer, Saeki's style of fighting is similar to fellow flicker jab user Mashiba Ryou. His boxing sense combined with his sharpened footwork make for a deadly combination even Date Eiji couldn't keep up with.
Despite Saeki's confidence in his speed, the condition of his legs have been shown to deteriorate between his matches against Makunouchi Ippo and Itagaki Manabu, eventually failing him in a match against the latter.
His boxing style is also mentioned by Ippo to be "too perfect", or refined to the point of predictability. An opponent with decent boxing sense would always be able to predict where Saeki is in the ring.
- ↑ Hajime no Ippo Official Guidebook, page 80