Although the original manga debuted in 1989, it wouldn't have an anime adaptation until 2000, 11 years later!!! Since its animated premiered, it has had three seasons, an OVA, and a TV movie. The series has many qualities that have captured its audiences from its lovable and relatable characters to its magnificent and immersive portrayal of the sweet science.
For today’s list, we will cover the top 10 fights exclusively from the animated adaptations of Hajime no Ippo. So let’s get ready to rumble for 10 rounds of Hajime no Ippo’s most exciting fights!
10. Makunouchi Ippo vs. Date Eiji
To start off this list, we have Ippo’s first loss in his professional career against Date Eiji, then the champion of Japan. Prior to this title bout, Date challenged Ippo to a sparring session after he won the rookie tournament. In three rounds, Date made easy work of Ippo but blocking Ippo’s punches still took a heavy toll on his arms. This fight takes place a year after their spar, and in that time span, Ippo does improve. Despite his excellently prepared game plan, Date’s superior experience would be the key in gaining the victory.
Although Ippo specializes in pummeling his opponent in the corner, Date would use the corner to effectively counter Ippo’s devastating liver shot with his own trademark finisher, the heartbreak shot, a corkscrew right cross to the opponent’s heart, capable of stopping the opponent’s movement for a few seconds. After Ippo regained his consciousness, Date gave his respect to Ippo for giving him the drive to be the warrior he was in his early-twenties.
9. Miyata Ichiro vs. Arnie Gregory
In this bout that starts season two of this critically acclaimed boxing drama, Miyata fights Arnie Gregory of Australia for the Pacific Regional featherweight title, a belt once held by Miyata’s father. Like Ippo, Miyata’s rival, Arnie has devastating knockout power and in addition, he did his homework on Miyata. Even though Miyata manages to score a few knockdowns with his jolt counter, Arnie shows his toughness and composure as he gets back up and manages to stop Miyata’s jolt counter by stopping its movement by simply bending his elbow and follows it up with a counter of his own knock as the Bloody Cross.
Thanks to an inspiring pep talk from his father, Miyata is ready to close the show and finds a way to stop Arnie’s bloody cross by further committing to the counter and taking the belt. This fight also shows that Miyata is ready for someone like Ippo and isn’t afraid to exchange with anyone of superior power.
8. Ricardo Martinez vs. Date Eiji II
Taking place three years before the start of the series, a younger Date Eiji then ranked third in the world (along with being a national and pacific regional champion) would challenge Martinez for the world title. Although Date was undefeatable in his home turf, Martinez made instant work of Date by slaughtering him within two rounds. In the seven-year gap between their two bouts, Martinez has defended his title over 20 times and has come out the victor by knockout. Feeling he has everything to prove, Date gives everything he has got. He survives ten rounds of Martinez’s brutality, in the middle of the fight, he suffered a hairline fracture when Martinez blocked his heartbreak shot with his elbow.
Thankfully, he manages to land the blow but due to the damage of his injury, the effect of the blow isn’t as he desired and Martinez manages to recover faster than anticipated. Upon his recovery, Martinez acknowledges Date as his greatest opponent and closes the show with a brutal right. In addition to his hand injury, Date would leave the ring on a stretcher with a shattered jaw and ribs forcing him to permanent retirement, and passing the baton to Ippo. Even though Date was Martinez’s strongest opponent, Martinez left the ring with no visible damage showing how strong he truly is as the world champion.
7. Makunouchi Ippo vs. Miyata Ichiro II
Taking place a few weeks after Ippo’s first spar with Miyata (which was more of a test of his heart), after intense training under Kamogawa, he finally gets a second shot to show his improvement. In that time frame, Ippo learns the fundamentals of boxing and discovering his fighting style. In addition, Kamogawa teaches Ippo a technique that is difficult to counter, an uppercut used by Eder Jofre, a bantamweight champion from Brazil back in the 1960s.
In addition to learning the basic one-two, Ippo also learns ducking and weaving, proper footwork, etc. In the day of the match, Ippo easily manages to score a knockdown as he ducks Miyata’s right straight by quickly following it up with a one-two. Acknowledging Ippo’s improvement, Miyata kicks it into sixth gear and it’s a back and forth battle. In the last round, Ippo barely scratches the chin of Miyata with his Jofre uppercut and gets a knockout victory thus sparking the rivalry that drives this series.
6. Makunouchi Ippo vs. Vorg Zangief
At number six we have Ippo’s fight against the Russian wolf, Vorg Zangief, a former champion in the amateur circuits (you can say his accomplishments are that of an Olympic medalist). In Vorg’s introduction, he is shown to be bloodthirsty and goes in for the kill. However, prior to their fight, Ippo got to know Vorg on a personal level and learn he is really a nice guy who just wants to help his single mother back in Russia. But when the bell rings, Ippo has to put those feelings of also being a fellow son of a single mother behind in order to make his own dreams come true. Due to Vorg’s aggressive style and how the amateur bouts are limited to 3-4 2-minute rounds, Kamogawa’s game plan is to exploit Vorg’s background into a war of who has the superior cardio.
In addition, Kamogawa teaches Ippo the gazelle punch, a jump like hook used famously by Floyd Patterson, a 1950s heavyweight champion. Though Vorg’s superior technique and aggression initially gave Ippo problems, their training for the game plan paid off as Vorg lost his breath after Ippo dodges his white fang and ends it with a gazelle punch in the fifth round. But shortly after the fight, Ippo passes out for three days! If the fight went on any longer, there is no doubt that Ippo could have lost. Thankfully, Vorg gets a rematch in the form of a friendly spar and still shows he has the Eye of the Siberian Tiger, or in his case, the wolf.
5. Kimura Tatsuya vs. Mashiba Ryo
Although Kimura wasn’t exactly on a roll when he got the call to fight Mashiba for the national title at 130 pounds (after other contenders turning Mashiba down), he knew this wasn't an opportunity he couldn't say no to despite Mashiba’s previously established reputation as a vicious boxer with speed, reach, and power. He knew he didn't have what it takes to win, but he felt he had to put in the hard work.
Initially being a mid-range out boxer, he knew he had to change his style as a close range in-fighter like Ippo in order to fight Mashiba. Kimura enlists the help of his former gym mate, Miyata Ichiro, in order to get ready and develops a new technique, an overhand right he calls the dragon fish blow in order to compensate his disadvantages. When it came fight time, Kimura predictably struggles to get past Mashiba’s long flicker jab. But in the later rounds, he finds his range and finally lands his newly developed technique scoring a knockdown. Kimura’s heart would later persevere and would give Mashiba his toughest challenge since Ippo.
In a middle of a heated exchange, both men would fire right hands at each other and land simultaneously. Due to Mashiba’s reach advantage, it allowed him more power to score the knockout despite Kimura standing unconsciously. After the fight, Aoki, his best friend since kindergarten shredded man tears and embraced him out of concern for his safety and praise for his effort. Initially wanting to retire, if in the event he lost, Kimura realized that a mere centimeters in difference between their reaches shouldn't be reason enough to quit.
4. Makunouchi Ippo vs. Sawamura Ryuhei
Next, we have Ippo’s biggest test as the national champion, Sawamura. He accepted Sawamura’s challenge after a prior meeting where he criticized the Dempsey Roll, and after watching videos of him and how he cheats out of pleasure, he also wanted to teach him a lesson that boxing is about fair competition. Not only does Sawamura cheat in the ring, despite being an active boxer, he still engages in street fights and nearly hits Kumi for almost touching his motorcycle. This further motivates Ippo to defeat him. Though Ippo fought Sendo was bad intentions with respect, Ippo fought Sawamura to teach him a lesson he will never forget, and Ippo came into that fight with the mentality he couldn’t afford to lose.
Although Sawamura uses dirty tactics for his amusement, he is naturally an excellent boxer who specializes in counters like Ippo’s rival, Miyata. While Miyata’s counters require his opponent to fully commit to their punch, Sawamura attacks before his opponent can commit. Though it doesn’t have the same physical damage as Miyata’s, it has more psychological damage.
Thankfully, Ippo is able to exploit a weakness in Sawamura’s countering style by purposely stopping the rhythm of his Dempsey Roll as a feint to lure Sawamura to counter, and Ippo would then counter Sawamura’s counter with his Dempsey Roll. As a result of this fight, Sawamura would have damaged ribs and a dislocated eye socket dishing the most devastating damage Ippo would ever give on any opponent.
3. Kamogawa Genji vs. Ralph Anderson
Throughout most of the series, fans are aware of Kamogawa’s success as a coach by producing 4 national champions, a pacific regional champion, and a world champion. To be as excellent of a coach as Kamogawa, he had to have some sort of background as a fighter, right? In fact, he was a simple club fighter in the post-World War II era mostly feuding with his old friends Nekota and Dankichi.
However, their fun would come to an end by Ralph Anderson, a soldier stationed in Japan and a former top 10 ranked boxer. To make matters worse, Anderson was a welterweight (between 140-147 pounds) while Kamogawa and his friends were bantamweights (115-118 pounds). Anderson made it no secret that he was a sadistic bully by resorting to cheating to beat Nekota by punching him in the back of the head (and Nekota was already showing signs that he got Parkinson’s Syndrome).
Thanks to Nekota’s fight, Kamogawa found Anderson’s weakness in body blows and decided to work on his game plan by punching a log into a hillside. When it came fight time, Kamogawa was getting battered and got knocked down 7 times!!! Thanks to a miracle slip up by Anderson, Kamogawa found the opening he needed to use his training by landing two body blows. And what were the results? Shattered ribs to the point that Anderson’s organs may have been punctured!! Unfortunately, it would also permanently damage Kamogawa’s fists and these experiences inspired him to still be a student of the game and also become one of its finest teachers.
2. Makunouchi Ippo vs. Sendo Takeshi II
At number two we have the biggest rematch of the series, Ippo vs Sendo. Though they fought a little over two years earlier in the timeline of the series with Ippo as the victor, everyone felt their fight wasn't over. Their second fight is for the national title, with Sendo as the champion. It was an appropriate continuation of their previous fight, simply going for the knockout.
Ippo opens the fight with the Dempsey Roll technique scoring a knockdown in the opening bell. But considering how durable and tough Sendo is, he manages to get up, regain his composure, and still give Ippo a tough fight. Even though these two went at each other with bad intentions, in reality, they fought each other the way they did out of personal respect for each other. Though they refused to publicly shake hands prior to their bout, they chose to privately shake hands in an empty arena just to show this fight is for them and not for the press.
Through their fight, Ippo and Sendo can feel that they can realize their goals. In the end, Ippo’s accumulated experience allows him to get the victory in the seventh round. This victory marked the beginning of Ippo’s journey as the champion of Japan while Sendo accepts his loss as a man and tips his proverbial hat off to Ippo.
1. Takamura Mamoru vs. Brian Hawk
At number one we have one of the most emotional fights from the series, Takamura vs. Brian Hawk. Due to the Taka in Takamura’s name also meaning hawk, this fight was promoted as “The Battle of Hawk.” In addition to their names, both fighters share similar qualities though Hawk shows it with more extremity.
For starters, like Takamura, his coach scouted Hawk as he was beating some dude up in an alley. Plus, they love to chase the ladies except Hawk has success in that department. Some real life fighters say the real work is through the weight cut. While Hawk is fighting at his natural weight, Takamura has to cut nearly 45 pounds to make the weight limit of 154 pounds. After much hard work and sacrifice, he barely makes the weight limit. With 24 hours to recover, he makes it in time to fight in nearly tip top condition. Considering Hawk’s higher level of competitive experience and his wicked instincts, he gives Takamura a hell of a fight and also wears down Takamura’s trademark hairstyle. Hawk shows that he is a very tricky boxer with his flexibility and agility with his awkward angles.
This was naturally a tough fight for Takamura who tends to win a majority of his bouts with relative ease. Although the match starts off as a technical bout, it eventually becomes an insane brawl of one trying to put the other down permanently. But with the support of his coach and his teammates (and his nation), Takamura puts all of his feelings into his fists, makes Hawk vomit his own blood, and gain his first world title.
As stipulated earlier, this list covers what has been portrayed in the anime versions. Hopefully if or when the series gets more animated adaptations this list is subjected to change. There are numerous fights from the manga that would look brilliant when animated so there is always hope. So what are your favorite bouts from the Hajime no Ippo animated adaptations? Feel free to leave a comment.