After announcing his retirement, the people around Makunouchi Ippo change. Imai Kyōsuke defends his JBC title, with an announcement that the one he wanted to fight all along was none other than Ippo himself among other fighters. Days later Shinoda Tomoyuki comes over to Ippo's home and requests Ippo to become a second for his gymmates Kimura Tatsuya, Aoki Masaru, and Itagaki Manabu; which he gladly accepts. Ippo also meets an old rival who has not retired yet despite losing so many times, Hayami Ryūichi, who he sees fighting in the ring as now known "The Legendary Junker". Ippo's life as a second begins, needing time to adapt, he starts to learn new things as he observes boxing from the corner's perspective, as he also searches for a student which by accident he comes across a similar scene like that of his from the past, someone getting bullied in front of his eyes, but things turn out to be different.
The Accolades That the Men Who Looked Up to Ippo Collect
Some time has passed since Makunouchi Ippo's defeat, and at the Kōrakuen Hall, another easy victory won by the new JBC featherweight champion, Imai Kyōsuke, as Itagaki Manabu watches the match with a bit of jealously and regret that it could had been him with the title.
When Imai is asked by the reporter if he has any plans for the future, Imai replies that at the moment he can't talk about it but once he set his sight to the world stage, he will be ready to take on two Japanese world rankers, Sendō Takeshi and Miyata Ichirō. The crowd overly excited believing this was his plan all along, cheers for him to go ahead and do it, but Imai says this wasn't what he wanted. Imai lifts up his head proudly and says the person he truly wanted to fight was Ippo and no one else. Everyone, including Itagaki, was shocked as the arena quiets down.
After the match, the crowd share their views, wishing of such a matchup and Ippo taking on a world title while discussing rumours surrounding Ippo that he is going to retire due to different reasons. They then wonder what Ippo is doing.
Later that night at the Monthly Boxing Fan, the editors discuss Imai's match and reflect upon the outcome. Ippo is still fresh in ther minds so they aren't used to the thought that Ippo might never step into the ring again, as he was one of the most beloved fighters that appeared in Kōrakuen Hall's recent history. Both Fujii Minoru and Īmura Mari express their views on the situation, meanwhile at Umezawa's place, Ippo carefully helps out with the manga. Finishing 15 panels, happily Ippo shows it to Umezawa who he says that's nearly as good as pro assistants. After that when he carefully looks at them he is weirded out by how perfect they look. Umezawa then tells Ippo that if he can do such a work then why is he isn't pursuing boxing. Ippo's smile sort of fades away and Umezawa apologises that he will mind his own business, but Ippo in a sad manner agrees that everyone was rooting for him but he couldn't deliver. Even though all this, Ippo is trying to commit to living without boxing. Ippo on his way home, he looks up at the night sky seeing how beautiful and great it looks from this side, as he didn't notice as much before, he then proceeds to shadow box out of habit, then stops. Ippo looking the stars says to himself that he'll enjoy things that he did not before.
The next day, Ippo once he finishes helping out his mother with the fishing business, has a date with Mashiba Kumi, which they spend time together at the cinema and then afterwards walk and discuss the romantic movie they've seen. Mari notices them walking and grabs their attention by shouting at them. Mari wants to hear Ippo's views on Imai's record. As Ippo is trying to respond, Kumi immediately steps in and makes it clear to her not to refer anything about boxing that includes Ippo. Mari believing that Kumi is being a bit selfish, Kumi responds that she isn't fair for not seeing her side at all, that she has to take care of Ippo and her brother due to their boxing. Mari calms Kumi down, telling her it is alright and no boxing will be mentioned. Kumi asks her what is Ippo to her, what's her feelings. Kumi shocked by the first words, Mari says she loves Ippo as a boxer and only that. Ippo meanwhile proceeds and repeats what was that she wanted to say about boxing, as if he didn't listen to anything else. Kumi takes Ippo and leave. With their true feelings still for each other still not out at light, they silently head home that thinking both that things are fine for now.
Back at home later that day, Nanako helped Ippo's mother to make dinner. Kumi is being jealous of it and asks her to leave to which she denies, so they end up having dinner together. Nanako asks Ippo if there's any way she can help him or if he himself is looking to do now that he's retired. Ippo says that he would like to help others, Kumi likes the idea but Nanako wished that Ippo would become a world champion. Ippo turns the conversation that he seems to have done everything he could and thus not able to make it so he's fine with the outcome. Kumi swears to herself that she will silence anyone who comes near mentioning boxing or tries to influence Ippo back to it. In the midst of all this, Shinoda interrupts their dinner and asks Ippo to come back to the ring. Kumi annoyed by it, calls him a jerk loudly. Afterwards, Shinoda is too tensed as he had a bad experience with women yelling at him. Shinoda goes ahead and specifies they would like Ippo to return as a second that would help his fellow gymmates, as they are in dire need of one and he would be best fit to help them. Kumi believes this is a way to drag Ippo little by little back to the ring but Ippo doesn't seems to fit with his thought previously of helping people, with one thing he's good at, boxing. Shinoda goes to mention that Kamogawa is in the hospital and Ippo is shocked from this but then calms as Shinoda says it's just from a cold. Shinoda lets Ippo to think about it as he wants, believing that maybe it will give the boost they need if Ippo is in Itagaki, Aoki and Kimura's corner. Nanako and Kumi walk off together to their homes as Nanako talks to her with positive thoughts on Ippo being a second but before saying too much she realises Kumi is very worried and against this.
The next day, Kumi asked Ippo if he paid a visit to Kamogawa at the hospital, but it seems Ippo missed him as Kamogawa already went home to rest.
The Delinquent & The Talented Artist
While scouting for boxers, Ippo notices a group of delinquents picking on a boy. Seeing this, Ippo attempts to stop the delinquents, yanking one of the delinquents to the ground, telling them that it is unforgivable to pick on someone, remembering when he himself got picked on and Takamura saved him. Ippo does a dogeza, slamming his fists onto the ground, politely asking them to leave. As the delinquents are about to beat up Ippo, the delinquent on the ground gets a weird feeling about Ippo and tells the group to stop and leave. As the group leaves, the delinquent leader, Taihei, asks for Ippo's name before leaving.
As the group has left, Ippo asks the boy who was being picked on if he wants to try boxing, the boy responds by running. After Ippo catches up to him, the boy explains how he was always picked on at school and felt alone, wondering what would it be like if he disappeared. Ippo tells the boy why the bullies do what they do, which is to simply kill time. Ippo then takes the boy to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym, and tells him to draw a picture of Taihei to hit on the bag. When the boy is finished drawing, it surprises Ippo and the others at the gym and gets placed on the bag. The boy puts on the boxing gloves and punches the bag after being shown by Ippo. However, he doesn't punch with enough strength and runs away after being scared by the gym members.
Ippo then takes him to Umezawa's place and shows Umezawa the picture that was drawn at the gym. Umezawa immediately praises the boy's genius-level drawing skills. After discovering that Umezawa is a manga artist, the boy tells Umezawa that he is Teru Okazaki and wants to study with Umezawa to one day become a pro mangaka. Umezawa then accepts Teru as his disciple. After hearing Teru's thoughts of suicide and wanting something good to come, Ippo tells him that he is strong and that something good did come, as he met Umezawa.