This arc sees Makunouchi Ippo as a second showing Aoki Taihei and Kintarō Kaneda, now members of the Kamogawa Boxing Gym, the world of boxing. OPBF lightweight champion Mashiba Ryō also has a title defence against JBC lightweight champion Iga Shinobu, who Mashiba specifically picked for a reason. After witnessing that match, Ippo believes he found the reason he lost. Takamura Mamoru claims that he will move to the next weight class after his title defence as the WBA/WBC middleweight champion against Michael Goat, the one who is ranked first in both WBA/WBC.
At the tree where the line is, Miyata appears before Ippo, Taihei and Kintarō. Miyata questions Ippo on wearing the arm weights if he is not training. Ippo claims it is just a habit. Taihei and Kintarō become angry, however, Itagaki stops the two in time for Ippo and Miyata to continue their conversation. Ippo points out how Miyata wasn't at his best condition in his latest match and requests for Miyata to stop fixating on him and to move up a weight class as he will never return to the ring again. Realising that if he stays at featherweight, he will continue to struggle, Miyata tells Ippo that he will switch depending on his answer. Miyata asks who called him punch drunk. Seeing Ippo at a loss for words, Miyata walks away, claiming that what lies ahead will be his decision now.
Itagaki explains to Taihei and Kintarō why Miyata visited Ippo. Itagaki continues, telling the two that Ippo being Punch Drunk was never decided, choosing to retire based on suspicions and to spend time with the person most precious to him.
Later on, on the Makunouchi Fishing Boat's boat, Ippo is asked about boxing, which he mentions that he is practising with his students in order to keep his body in shape to devote himself to his job and is enjoying life without boxing now. At the dock, Ippo's boat appears to be late. With Taihei and Kintarō waiting for him, Kumi joins the two and asks if the training they do with Ippo is sparring. When she finds out it's not, she tells them that it is good, as he's Punch Drunk. Taihei and Kintarō then realise she's the one who calls Ippo Punch Drunk.
Encountering the Three Weaknesses - OPBF Lightweight Title Match - Mashiba Ryō vs. Iga Shinobu
After Kumi scares Taihei and Kintarō when they mentioned Miyata, Ippo returns from the boat. That night, while walking to the Kōrakuen Hall, Ippo explained to the two that Kumi's reason for being irritated is because it's the night of Mashiba's match. Mashiba, headed to the arena, comes across Ippo. Ippo, who previously found out that Mashiba specifically picked his opponent, tells Mashiba that his opponent, Iga Shinobu, is strong. Mashiba responds by pushing Ippo with his shoulder. With that, Ippo realises Mashiba was telling him that that was the reason why he picked him. Inside, Ippo introduces his two students to the Kourakuen Hall and explains the basics of working up to being an 8-rounder. Taihei remembers the hall, being there when Aoki was being made into a laughing stock. However, Ippo tells him that Aoki was a true pro, as he got the crowd riled up. Ippo then tells Taihei to focus on the main event, as the person who is fighting, is his older brother's objective, Iga. Aoki, who is in the Kōrakuen Hall, wishes that Iga loses in order for him to not get a world ranking.
Aoki explains to Kimura that him and Sawamura Ryūhei are the reason why Mashiba picked Iga. Ippo notes how Iga is a strong enough hurdle for Mashiba to show that he can go to the world, remembering Fujii's report on how Iga's coach, Kurita Baron, claimed to have known Mashiba's three weaknesses. Mashiba and Iga arrive at the ring, and when the match begins, Mashiba enters his Hitman Style. When Iga learns the range of Mashiba's Flicker Jab, he hesitates to move forward. However, when Baron signals for him to turn off his emotions, Iga turns his emotions off and moves forward, getting hit repeatedly in the process.
After adjusting to the Flicker Jabs, Iga enters the Peek-a-Boo style and goes forward, blocking Mashuba's Flicker Jabs. Iga eventually gets to his own range, however, Mashiba throws a Chopping Right that Iga dodges. Before Iga can follow up, Mashiba strikes him with an uppercut, causing him to go down. Displeased with Iga showing pain, Baron signals for him to turn his emotions off again. When the match continues, Mashiba throws Flicker Jabs until the jabs open iga's guard. Mashiba then hits Iga with a right straight.
With Iga's back to the ropes, Mashiba prepares for the final blow, however, Iga throws a weak left body blow and attempts to throw his right before Mashiba notices and steps back. When round one ends, and at Iga's corner, Baron denies Iga's access to water and strikes Iga with his hand for embarrassing him. After Iga was reminded that Baron was the reason for his success, round two begins. Iga enters into the Peek-a-Boo style until he gets close, and uses the Dragonfish Blow. Mashiba ducks the attack, however, Iga strikes Mashiba with a headbutt and began uses his elbows to attack. making Mashiba angry. After Iga uses multiple headbutts during his clinches the second round ends.
In his corner, Mashiba realises that Iga's attacks are a combination of Ippo, Kimura, and Sawamura. The referee warns Iga and Mashiba about the fouls, however, Mashiba's coach points out that the fouls were not from Mashiba. Mashiba is told to box properly by his coach, making Mashiba remember his past when he was blamed for things he did not do and was not trusted. Mashiba claims that he will teach Iga who he is dealing with. With round three starting, Mashiba sees Ippo, Kimura, and Sawamura behind Iga and gets angry. He then calms down, wanting to crush the three boxers and move to the world. Iga attempts to use the Peek-a-Boo style, the Dragonfish Blow, and fouls, however Mashiba counters each and every one of them, destroying his three weaknesses. Mashiba then batters Iga with a barrage of Flicker Jabs until Iga is up against the corner and the referee steps in between them. The referee ends the match, declaring Mashiba the winner, with the time of 1:56 on the third round.
After the match, the Kōrakuen Hall interviewer interviews Mashiba, who was annoyed at questions asking about his next opponent. However, Mashiba reveals that Iga and Baron were short one weakness. The interview then asks the Tōhō coach on his future. The Tōhō coach announces that he would be relinquishing the OPBF belt and challenge the world immediately.
Outside the Kōrakuen Hall, Aoki and Kimura have a conversation about how Mashiba's gotten popular and how Mashiba has more humanity in him since his match against Sawamura. When Aoki and Kimura wonders what the fourth weakness, Ippo appears and claims it to be Miyata, as fighting Miyata during the East Japan Rookie King Tournament was the only time Mashiba was feeling fear. Ippo reveals to Aoki and Kimura that, by seeing the match, he realises the reason he lost.
The Forgotten Reason for Losing
Kimura takes Aoki, Kintarō, and Taihei to the Kemuri Izakaya to talk about the match so that Ippo can think alone. At the Kemuri Izakaya, Taihei questions the status of the belts, which Kimura explains it was just an OPBF title defence with the JBC belt staying with Iga, as Mashiba was not interested in the JBC title, as Mashiba was beyond even the OPBF title.
The next day, at the gym, Ippo explains to Kamogawa that, while watching Mashiba and Miyata's recent matches, that they had "something" in common, and that he forgotten and lost that "something" after picking up the Dempsey Roll: his left. He begins to think about how Mashiba and Miyata always made the first move while he wanted to make the second. He continues telling Kamogawa that he would always dive in and use the Dempsey Roll while forgetting his teachings to hit before getting hit, which was why he believes losing was inevitable.
Kamogawa disagrees of Ippo's statement of why he lost, and refers to an old proverb of "the person who controls the left controls the world". After explaining what a jab is, he asks Ippo if he really thought he could win without the Dempsey Roll, suggesting that Ippo was just setting aside his "short sword" to achieve victory and envisions Ippo as a blade, moving forward. Ippo begins having thoughts after realising his mistake, however, Kamogawa stops him and suggests to tell his two students everything he learned, telling his former student that he can become a great leader. Ippo becomes confused as to why Kamogawa praised him instead of scolding him. He then remembered that it was because he is no longer a boxer, punching a sandbag in anger.
WBA/WBC World Middleweight Title Match - Takamura Mamoru vs. Michael Goat
Later, a press conference is held for Takamura's WBA/WBC middleweight title defence where the first ranker in the WBA/WBC, Michael Goat, claims his love for Japan before apologising to the country and Takamura that he will be giving the pride of Japan his first lost. Takamura claims that the match won't be a "first", but a "last", announcing that, after this match, he will be moving on to the next weight class, the super middleweight class, and that, in terms of middleweight, Goat will be the last man to lose to him. While walking back from the press conference, Ippo orders his two students to not blink and to not keep their eyes off Takamura. At the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, after their ring entrances with Takamura's comment from the announcer claiming that he apologises that he is too strong, the match begins.
As the first round begins, Goat throws out lefts that beat Takamura's lefts in speed despite being thrown at the same time. When Takamura pushes forward, he is hit with a short uppercut. After blocking multiple lefts and pushing forward once more, Takamura is hit with a hook. Much to everyone's shock, after stepping back, Takamura changes his position and tightens his guard. As Takamura continues to block Goat's lefts, Ippo believes he knows how to handle it and begins to shout to Takamura before being stopped by Kamogawa, who orders him to just watch as he does not know how to handle it. After leaving the ropes, Takamura and Goat begin to throw lefts, with Takamura getting hit multiple times while not being able to get a hit in himself.
As it continues, Ippo begins to notice that Takamura is now blocking the one-two's. The referee then gets between them as the round ends. Ippo thinks back on the last attack at the last round and how Takamura did not just predict, but was confident while blocking Goat's one-two. He also realises that Takamura was learning the timing and angles with his body to adjust accordingly. As Kamogawa becomes hopeful that Ippo has figured something out, Takamura stops him, wanting him to forget about Ippo and to keep his eyes on himself as round two begins.
When round two begins, Takamura throws big swings that miss. When Takamura and Goat go into the same position as the in the end of the first round where Takaura blocked, Takamura instead attacks with a counter right before Goat could hit him. As Takamura follows up with a left hook, Goat prepares to counter, as he knows exactly where it will land. However, Takamura changes the hook into a straight, hitting the surprised Goat, causing a down. After getting back up, Goat prepare to block his face for another left, however Takamura goes for his body instead, knocking him down again, but this time to a point where Goat can't get up anymore. The referee stops the match with no count as Goat struggles all bloodied to get up. An incredible short victory for Takamura, showing the huge difference to everyone.
Itagaki wonders if anyone noticed what Takamura did during the match. Ippo feels like he figured something out after watching Takamura's lefts. The victory interview begins, with Takamura being asked what was on his mind when it seemed like his opponent was giving him trouble. He then angered the audience when he claims that he felt sorry that he was too strong. Takamura changes the subject, announcing that now that he defeated the first ranker, he will be moving on from middlweights and onto super middleweight.
After returning to the gym, Taihei and Kintarō are relieved after being able to blink again due to Ippo's order. Kamogawa asks Ippo if the no blinking order was set to him too and if he learned anything. Ippo answers that he has been learning things since he started boxing, and that his learning will never stop as long as he is involved with boxing. Ippo and his students begin to run away from the gym in excitement from the match as Yagi wonders how he will be involved with boxing moving forward. At home, Ippo begins studying how he should use his left. He then punches a wall before putting a Ricardo Martinez poster over it, thinking of how he used to look up to and aimed for. Ippo recalls how Takamura, Mashiba, and Miyata used their left and how he believed that all fighter types can do is slip and push-in, which he realises is something he should not have done, as all he was doing was waiting for the moment to step forward.
Ippo then compares his and Takamura's opponent's stance with stick figures he drew. He notices how his own opponent's upper body is more loose, making their punches less strong. His opponents can throw lefts with them not fearing if they lose the exchange. Ippo begins to regret not knowing this information and wonders if he could do it right next time. Ippo then realises how much he really doesn't know about boxing and wishes to study more, claiming that boxing is really deep.
While out on his business's boat, the customers point out how Ippo's hair is back. Ippo then removes his hat, telling them that he is back.
|Towards a Resolution|