Welcome once again to our series of analyses of Megalo Box’s fights with the help of Canadian boxer Eli Serada. Last time we focused on only the first round of protagonist Joe’s match against the much higher ranked Aragaki. As we said last time, this battle marks a turning point in the show where the action takes a turn from massive Sakuga movements and impacts to careful, calculated and strategic approaches, showing not only how much Joe has improved, but also how skilled his opponent is. In fact, Joe could barely get a hit in during the first round and lost his footing twice. Let’s see how he turns this around. Assuming he can, of course.
Second Round, Second Wind
A little while ago we went in-depth on Joe's specific style of boxing, called counterpunching, and highlighted the broad strokes of its application. This information becomes especially pertinent now, because not only is Aragaki another counterpuncher, but he was even trained by Joe’s coach Nanbu in the past. This makes for some brilliant interplay between the two opponents. The fact that their strategies both revolve around creating or waiting for openings from the other and then quickly hitting them as hard as possible means not only that a decent opportunity will mean Joe can turn the tables right away, but also that Aragaki could then bring them back just as quickly.
Even more interesting is the fact that the way the pair go about creating these openings is fairly different. You’ll recall from our last article that Aragaki’s approach is to punch turtling opponents to break through their guard, something we had seen Joe try previously. In this match, however, Joe seems eager to get his foe to throw risky punches by taunting. We saw him do this in the first round, but he becomes so forward with it in the second that it’s practically the first thing he does after the bell. Well okay, he starts off by simply repeating Nanbu’s words of wisdom out loud, but this visibly troubles the cowardly coach’s former apprentice, a weakness Joe notices and continues to exploit.
Aragaki takes the bait, angrily throwing a flurry of attacks at Joe, forcing his arms apart and landing a devastating hit. But his offense is different than before, as we see him swing much more wildly. Not as badly as Samejima of course, but much less safe than before, indicating that he let Joe’s words get to him. This adds a fascinating angle to the fight, where Aragaki may be winning the physical battle, but Joe is easily ahead in the mental one.
Pressing the Advantage
Joe’s been having a hard time dealing with Aragaki’s quick punches, so Nanbu tells him to get as close as possible so the opponent's speed can become less of an advantage. "It sounds like a fairly viable tactic," said Serada. “A fast puncher from far away will still be a fast puncher up close, but [Joe] will eliminate their ability to throw quick combos at their arms’ full extension . . . Aragaki has the distance advantage in terms of arm length, so Joe needs to get into where he can actually hit as well.” He also described the ensuing combat as “the ultimate evolution of Joe’s fighting style” because of the fact that we see him use both aggressive punching to get close to Aragaki and deal damage along with defensive turtling to get the latter to use more powerful strikes which tire him out.
Joe also goes for more body blows, another smart adaptation seeing as a more worn out opponent can be winded more easily. Additionally, the much larger size of the torso compared to the head makes it a very easy target, especially with the reduced dodging speed of a tired foe. With the best of both offense and defense, Joe seems to have turned his mental lead into a physical one.
Matter over Mind
Don’t think that means Joe's mind games are no longer in effect though. Between rounds, we see the emotional wounds Joe’s taunts have left on Aragaki, as the lanky bruiser is unable to hear his cornermen’s advice, focused only on his PTSD-induced flashbacks and on hitting Joe as hard as possible. But we’ll talk about Aragaki as a character and as a fighter more in a later article. Right now, let’s wrap this one up by focusing on our hero’s strategy.
Joe can tell that the taunting is bringing back painful memories in his adversary’s mind and decides to double down on this approach. Unfortunately, he gets hit some more by increasingly strong punches from Aragaki, taking an especially nasty hit to the liver and being knocked down in the process. At this point, it’s clear that no matter how many mental tricks he pulls, Joe can’t win by fighting head-on.
The fight against Aragaki is easily the longest and most intense bout of the entire show so far. The downside to this is the fact that it’s so detailed that we’ll need a whole other article to finish it off. Be sure to join us there and let us know what you think of this fight in the comments.