Miyata Ichirō takes on his eighth title defence match, however, he runs into some trouble because of unclear goals. Makunouchi Ippo still a second, receives a pupil named Taihei who previously bullied Teru.
Rivals Broken Paths: Miyata's Eighth OPBF Featherweight Title Defence
After leaving Umezawa's place, Ippo comes across the same area where Miyata did a dogeza and notes how their paths diverged since then, even though he wanted to approach him again one day as long as he kept fighting. However, since his path came to an end, Ippo believes their paths will never intersect again. Ippo goes to the Kōrakuen Hall and writes notes about Aoki and Itagaki's possible opponents until the main event is announced.
Miyata goes up to the boxing ring for his OPBF Featherweight eighth title defence. The match begins with Miyata going on the offence with left jabs, that Ippo notices to be off. After dodging his opponent's attacks, Miyata quickly downs the challenger and then again right after the challenger got back up. Elsewhere, at the Chūka Soba, Itagaki wonders how long Miyata will defend the title instead of challenging the world. Itagaki predicts that an underdog may snatch his ranking.
Back at Kōrakuen Hall, Miyata is visibly exhausted at round eight. After being hit by multiple body blows, Miyata throws a direct right straight, however, it was ineffective. Miyata struggles despite hitting with a counter until the end of round eight. Imai appears before Ippo, asking if he believes that Miyata doesn't deserve to be a pro. He points out the dead atmosphere in the title match, which he believes a pro's job is to deliver what the fans want. Round ten begins, Imai notes how Miyata's lefts that used to be terrifying when he was Miyata's sparring partner, now looks like a "sigh". Ippo believes he shouldn't be weak because of weight control as he dealt with it before, Imai suggests that it is a lack of drive, as Makunouchi Ippo is gone from the ring. Miyata gets hit with body blows until he begins to fall.
As Miyata falls, his hand position is similar to that of a dogeza, remembering the time he did a dogeza to Ippo. At the time, he believed their paths would cross again as long as they continue fighting. However, since Ippo's path has been cut, they won't be able to cross paths again. Miyata gets angered thinking how other boxers fought Ippo as a pro, but he never did. After being hit by a strong body blow, Miyata tells his opponent to do a better job.
Miyata continues to not be able to down challenger until the twelfth round is over and the match comes to a decision. Miyata is then decided the winner of the match. Ippo shows his praise while Imai states that this is not the Miyata he wants to fight. Realising that Imai came to recon Miyata, Ippo tells him that he too came to recon for possible fighters against his gym's members. He also came to scout for boxers and states he already found one who is a fantasy. Imai begins to get angry and tells Ippo to take responsibility for Miyata's struggle and anyone who lost their goal because of him. Ippo begins to wonder what to do while Miyata wonders where to go. While walking home, Miyata finds a stray cat which follows him home.
Two days later, while Ippo is fishing, Mashiba Kumi joins him and encourages him when he thought he wasn't doing a good job as a second. When Ippo talks about Miyata and how he became just another cheering fan and felt nothing when Imai wanted to fight Miyata, Kumi becomes happy, knowing that Miyata isn't pulling him into boxing. At the Márquez, Miyata has a lost cat flyer for the stray cat. When Miyata's manager hears that he might quit, despite the benefits, she begs him to stay. That night, Aoki, Kimura, and Takamura go in the store and suggests Miyata to move up instead of waiting for Ippo. While this happens, Kimura finds out about Miyata's ridiculously high wage and Takamura makes fun of Miyata about the cat that Miyata named "Sarate". Miyata then returns home, thinking about what the three boxers said to him.
Ippo's Disciple, Taihei
While Ippo is shadow boxing, Taihei expresses his amazement and asks Ippo to teach him boxing. Ippo denies the request at first, telling the delinquent to apologise to Teru for bullying and then he will hear him out. After hearing from Teru that he apologised, Ippo goes to the meeting spot to find Taihei waiting for him. Before teaching him boxing, Ippo tests Taihei to catch five leaves in three days. Back at home, Ippo notes that it is hard to catch even five leaves, with Itagaki barely catching five. He continues stating that if Taihei completes it, he would have gave it his utmost best.
Three days passed, Taihei shows Ippo his results. After the end of the attempt, Taihei shows Ippo five leaves in his hand, completing the test. Ippo tells him to come by tomorrow as he has foundations to be set. After getting Teru's approval, Ippo begins training Taihei with roadwork for multiple days until Taihei suggests different training. When Taihei tells Ippo he's struggling and questions if he s getting stronger, Ippo states that what he is doing is effort and believes he is impressive. These words encourage Taihei and he continues to train.
Ippo goes to the Kamogawa Boxing Gym and is surprised to see Kamogawa. He sees Kamogawa has mitts on, Yagi states that he was going to be his sparring partner, but now it will be Ippo instead. Ippo quickly gets in gear and goes in the ring with Kamogawa. Ippo begins the usual pattern and hits the mitts. Itagaki walks near the gym and notices the sounds, thinking it is Takamura. However, Itagaki looks inside as Takamura, Aoki, and Kimura are also outside watching and gets excited when he sees Ippo. Everyone in and outside the gym are in joy as Ippo and Kamogawa mitt practice. When Ippo is told to increase the tempo, the sounds begin to sound different and Kamogawa begins to not be able to keep up as he acknowledges Ippo getting stronger.
When the practice finishes, Aoki has hopes that Ippo can come back, however Kimura states that if Ippo took hits, there would be problems and that the one who wants to say it the most is Kamogawa. Ippo tells Kamogawa that he has a disciple and needs mitts to train him with. Kamogawa gives him his old mitts he trained Ippo with, which Ippo states he will treasure them. Before leaving, Ippo tells Kamogawa that he promises to come back as he leaves.
Ippo trains Taihei with his coach's old mitts, while giving him criticism on his swings. As they take a break, Ippo tells Taihei how Kamogawa would always scold him wholeheartedly and he was thankful for that, as he was able to get stronger and have no real injuries. When asked if Taihei has anyone who is similar, Taihei states that no one in his family was wholeheartedly to him, but his older brother looked after him. After Ippo ends the training session, he claims that Taihei's efforts won't go to waste and to not cause any trouble as he leaves. Itagaki, who was listening to the conversation, warns Ippo to wash his hands with Taihei before he causes trouble, but Ippo believes he turned over a new leaf.
Later, a typhoon begins to emerge, which Ippo worries that Taihei won't come to the meeting place. When Ippo arrives, it begins to pour, however he sees Teru running towards him exclaiming that something happened with Taihei. After hearing that Taihei and Umezawa are in a fight with delinquents, Ippo and Teru rushes to the location. When Ippo gets there, he sees Taihei fighting the delinquents.
Ippo tries to get Taihei to stop fighting and to go with him to train with his coach's mitts in hand. However, he refuses, saying that he doesn't need him anymore and knew Ippo was nice guy and would train him to be strong as fast as possible. Taihei proceeds to knock Ippo's mitts out of his hand in order to fight the remaining delinquent. Ippo rushes to grab his coach's mitts and wipes off the dirt while he has memories when he trained Taihei. He walks towards Taihei with an outstretched hand and a demonic face and gives him a powerful smack across the face, making him faint. Umezawa has a delinquent stay with Taihei to make sure he wakes up fine. Ippo comes back to his senses and is in shock as to what he has done. Umezawa takes him to the Chūka Soba where Aoki states to eat and forget about it as he didn't ht him with a closed fist. Ippo believes that it will be his last meal, as he will turn himself in.
Takamura, Kimura and Itagaki arrive at the Chūka Soba and gets caught up to what's going on while Ippo is gone to turn himself in. Teru believes it to be his fault if only he was strong enough to defeat his bullies. Umezawa expresses his thoughts on bullying, how he acted like the king of the world when he bullied Ippo, wanting to feel important at the time, not knowing Ippo could've died because of him. He then describes the face Ippo made, which didn't look human. When Teru talks about how Taihei's older brother was the reason Taihei started fighting, Aoki and Takamura believes this situation to be his older brother's fault. Teru then gets worried about Ippo's reputation if he gets a criminal record, but Kimura tells him that the bond between Ippo and his gym mates will never change.
At the police station, Ippo attempts to turn himself in, but could not be charged as there's no victim to report the crime. The officer then has Ippo write his information in case the victim does come report him. Later, at school Teru sees Taihei, who got kicked out of school and told the delinquents not to pick on Teru anymore. Teru tells him that the bullying won't stop because it wasn't just him, but Teru claims that Taihei will no longer use him as a way to kill time. Teru then delivers Ippo's message to file a report on him, but Taihei can't remember anything besides seeing a demon's face.
A week later, Itagaki tells Ippo to relax as there's been no report filed for him, however Ippo still wants punishment. Itagaki suggests Ippo to be grateful for the people in front of him. He continues saying that he is in a slump, which Ippo sees as a good thing because that means he is talented. Ippo then talks about how the line near the tree is a symbol of his limit, as he never was able to cross it. That night, Ippo has his mother give him a haircut.
The next day, a bald Ippo enters the gym in order to make his apologises to Kamogawa. For Ippo to take responsibility, Kamogawa orders him to clean the gym for three months and to train the two newcomers. He is shocked seeing Taihei and a delinquent, who are both now bald, being the newcomers. At first, Ippo didn't want to, as Taihei used his fists for violence, which made Ippo hit him with anger. However, after hearing Taihei say that it wasn't anger, rather, scolding, he accepts both of them in. Kimura and Aoki quickly recognises the latter's younger brother. Taihei and the delinquent introduce themselves as Taihei Aoki and Kintarō Kaneda.
Ippo, Itagaki, and Yagi realises that Aoki and Taihei were part of a TV show called "Heartwarming Special Presents: The Hectic Life of a 11-Person Family". After Kimura and Aoki explained how the latter supported his family, Taihei sees Aoki in a new light. Takamura, after finding out that Aoki is the older brother, proceeds to stick his fingers in Aoki's anus as punishment for making Taihei get into fights. Kintarō claims to have joined the gym as he was amazed and respected Ippo when he knocked Taihei into the air with just a slap. Yagi then sees Kamogawa, who is impressed to see Ippo as a master, seeing this as a way of his growth.
Later, Ippo meets with Kumi. When Ippo shows Kumi his bald head, it reminds her of "Baldichu" from the "Pokamon" series. Unable to resist, Kumi proceeds to kiss Ippo's bald head. Kumi stops herself and glares at Taihei and Kintarō after she notices them watching. Kumi then tells Taihei and Kintarō that the kiss didn't count and to erase it from there minds, scaring the two.
Ippo, Taihei, and Kintarō went to the tree that Taihei used as part of the leaf test. Seeing the tree, reminds Taihei of the leaf test and tells Ippo that he cheated during the test. However, Ippo was fine with it, as all he needs to do is pour his heart and soul into boxing. After Ippo explained his thoughts about boxing, Miyata appears before them.