Debuting in Shounen Magazine is September of 1989, Hajime no Ippo is one of Japan’s biggest boxing titles of all time along with the iconic Ashita no Joe. Despite the date of its initial publication, Hajime no Ippo would not get an anime until 2000! Since then, it has had three seasons, two specials, and the manga is still going on to this day with over 100 volumes!!!
Hajime no Ippo is about Makunouchi Ippo’s personal warrior’s journey on finding what it means to be strong. Prior to becoming a boxer, Ippo was a bullying victim until Takamura Mamoru, then a rising prospect saves his life. Touched by Takamura’s strength and encouragement, Ippo is put to the test and despite his initial lack of skill, his old school sense of will inspires Kamogawa Genji, Takamura’s trainer, to make him a future champion.
10. Sendo Takeshi
Ippo’s rival in the national circuits and known as the Naniwa Rocky and the Naniwa Tiger, Sendo is in many ways like Ippo, a power puncher and driven by similar goals. Some people who fight Ippo once are lucky to have a career, but with Sendo, he is the only one who has fought Ippo in the ring twice. While Ippo’s approach is more technical, Sendo is a wild brawler. Just like Ippo, Sendo lost his father (a former firefighter) by trying to do the right thing, and was raised solely by his paternal grandmother.
Inspired by his father willing to help others, Sendo starts fighting by standing up to bullies. Eventually, his fighting leads him to his own journey to becoming strong after picking a fight with Yamagi, his trainer. Seeing that he can be a great boxer, Yanagi takes him in and goes as far as becoming the champion of Japan (which Yanagi failed do), but losing the title to Ippo in their rematch. However, Sendo comes back again with one goal, to become champion of the world.
9. Sawamura Ryuhei
Like Miyata, Sawamura is a counter puncher but a much different breed. While Miyata has a high risk factor that requires his opponent to fully commit to the punch to make an instant knock out, Sawamura’s counters are applied shortly before or in the middle of an opponent’s ability to commit. Granted it doesn't have the same power as Miyata’s, it instead psychologically damages the opponent which is what Sawamura is all about.
In addition to Takamura, Aoki, Kimura and Sendo, Sawamura was also a street brawler but unlike them who gave up street fighting, he still engages in street fights even while he's boxing! He compares beating opponents to tendering meat (the man really loves his steak), loves to torture his opponents and found a new and yet simple way to stop the Dempsey Roll. While Sendo, Sanada and Shimabukuro stopped the Dempsey Roll by stepping in, Sawamura simply steps back and counters.
If Ippo is not in his range to land, all those punches hit nothing but air and he gets countered. Unfortunately, his love of torturing his opponents would cost him his shot at the title but with a new sense of self-respect and respect for his former teacher.
8. Makunouchi Ippo
The main character of course must be on this list. For most of the first season, the series focuses on Ippo’s journey to the top of the country while other seasons focus on him being the champion of Japan in hopes he can get his fight with Miyata. Some may dispute he should be ranked higher than Miyata but considering that Miyata is champion of the pacific region gives him higher priority.
Ippo is primarily based on a prime Mike Tyson but without all the controversy surrounding him. Ippo uses the peek a boo stance made famous by Tyson and works his way in by breaking down the opponent’s body and landing the knockout blow. By the time Rising, season 3 ends, all of Ippo’s victories come by way of knock out.
What gives Ippo the foundation of his strength besides his God given DNA (according to his mother, Ippo’s father was a good brawler and felt he was more suited for boxing) is the physical demands of his family’s fishing business. Ippo always carries heavy equipment which gives him the strength, and riding the fishing boats gives him a foundation of his excellent balance. In addition, Ippo has a crazy work ethic. The only combat sport athlete that can keep up with his dedication is former UFC champion, Sean Sherk.
7. Miyata Ichiro
Ippo’s main rival and is also called Raijin, or the God of Lightning. As the son and protégé of a former Japan and Pacific Region champion, Miyata starts his own boxing career to finish what his father started, to prove his father’s style of out boxing of speed, footwork, and counters can defeat power. What derailed his father’s dreams was losing by way of knockout in the twelfth and final round of his seventh defense as the OPBF champion and having his jaw shattered in the process.
Since then, Miyata has dedicated himself to boxing. His only blemishes in his career is a hometown decision draw in his first fight in Thailand and a knockout loss to Mashiba initially caused by an intentional (but unseen) foul on his foot. Other than that, no man,has legitimately beaten Miyata fair and square in the pro ring. After Thailand, Miyata developed the ultimate counter, the jolt.
Thanks to Miyata’s Asia tour after his loss to Mashiba, Miyata returned to Japan winning the OPBF champion from Arnie Gregory, an Australian boxer whose power equals that of Ippo’s.
6. Alexander Vorg Zangief
Hailing from the Siberian cold is Vorg Zangief. Upon his introduction, he was a former amateur world champion, equivalent to that of an Olympic medalist. In the ring he is ferocious as a predator, but outside the ring, he is about as every bit of a mama’s boy as Ippo. In fact, Vorg took up boxing to provide for his sick mother and decides to go pro in Japan. Due to 3-4 round amateur boxing rules not being as demanding as the scheduled eight for his fight with Ippo, Kamogawa’s plan was to make it a war about cardio and it paid off. Despite losing to Ippo, it was Vorg who walked out of the ring ok while Ippo was passed out for three days.
Vorg would get his shot at the Japanese title against Sendo, but a questionable knock down would cost him the decision making him temporarily leave the ring for two years. Upon the unfortunate passing of his mother, Vorg decides to make a come back and go for the world title. First, he gets back into fighting shape by training with Ippo. Other than needing to work on his cardio, Vorg showed no ring rust when he sparred with Ippo and even managed to counter his Dempsey Roll and knock him out cold. After he regained his form, Kamogawa hooks Vorg up with Hama Dankichi, his old friend in America to aim for the world.
5. Date Eiji
Date is the first man to beat Ippo in the ring. Date may not have power and speed, but he has experience, perception, precision and technique. And Date’s superior experience was what allowed him to beat Ippo when Ippo is most dangerous, when he has you cornered. In fact, Date used the corner to his advantage to beat Ippo. When Conor McGregor became the UFC featherweight champion, he said that precision beats speed and Date exemplifies that.
Date however has great toughness and endurance and took a lot of Ippo’s best shots. Date in his rematch with Martinez gave him his toughest fight, and Martinez left the ring with no injuries, bruises or any bleeding. But upon his retirement bed, Date passes on the torch to Ippo to become the world champion. After retirement, Date becomes a trainer.
4. Brian Hawk
The man Takamura had to beat to be the man. If anything, Hawk is the American version of Takamura. The reason why their fight is advertised as Battle of the Hawk is because the Taka in Takamura’s name happens to mean Hawk. The man is all about fighting and sex and loves to present himself as the ultimate alpha male like pro wrestling sensation, Scott Steiner. He loves to berate men and surround himself with women because he's the champ.
Despite the disputes about what sex can do to a fighter’s performance, Hawk has knocked people out of the ring and has a very flamboyant and wild fighting style that gets results. And the craziest thing is, he doesn't really bother training. Unfortunately, his lack of heart makes him lose and succumb to alcohol abuse after his loss to Takamura.
3. Kamogawa Genji
Even though a majority of the series shows Kamogawa is his advanced age, at the twilight of his own boxing career at age 28, Kamogawa was a formidable fighter himself. In his final match, he fought Ralph Anderson, an arrogant American soldier who was once ranked as a welterweight (140-147 pounds) and bullied Japanese fighters smaller than him (Kamogawa fought at 118, bantamweight). After defeating Nekota, Kamogawa’s best friend and rival by illegally hitting him in the back of the head, Kamogawa is motivated to put the weight of Japan on his fists by punching logs into hill sides.
After being nearly defeated by Nekota, Anderson also seriously trains for the bout by working his body. By fight time, Kamogawa took multiple knock downs and a serious beating, but a serious slip allows Kamogawa to end the fight in two punches shattering Anderson’s ribs to the point that he could be hospitalized for the rest of his life, but at the cost of his own fists. Due to this victory, Kamogawa is inspired to continue his dreams of boxing as a trainer.
2. Ricardo Martinez
If there is a top dog in the 122-126 weight class category, featherweight, it is the God of the Sun himself, Ricardo Martinez, the WBA belt holder. When he is introduced in the second season of the anime, he was already undefeated in over 60 fights with over 20 title defenses. He is also the only man to defeat Date Eiji, and they fought on two occasions. During Date’s first shot, Martinez dispatches him in two rounds and permanently gave him a nose scar.
As a tuneup for the rematch, Date spars with Ippo, coming off his first title defense. In one round, Martinez dominates Ippo with his left jab alone and even stops his Dempsey Roll. And despite Date’s efforts lasting to round 10 in the rematch, Martinez shattered Date’s hand, ribs, and jaw forcing him to permanent retirement. If any of you readers are fans of SNK fighting games, if Hajime no Ippo has a final boss that is equivalent to the final bosses of those games, it is Martinez.
1. Takamura Mamoru
Coming in at number one is two weight division champion, Takamura Mamoru. This is the guy that started it all for Ippo. By the time he met Ippo, he was already a nationally ranked fighter due to winning his respective rookie tournament. What makes him distinct is his freakish genetics. Prior to boxing, Takamura was already a formidable street fighter. Seeing his potential as a champion, Kamogawa takes him in.
Takamura’s accomplishments would lead him to being the champion of Japan at 154-160 pounds (middleweight) and as a world champion at 147-154 (junior middleweight) at middleweight. What also makes him number one on the list is the fact he cuts from nearly 200 pounds. Despite the harsh weight cut, he stills maintains an undefeated record with all of his victories by knockout.
His ultimate goal is to gain belts all the way up to heavyweight. And the number one thing that makes him pound for pound the top fighter on this list, he defeated a bear in pure hand to hand combat.
I know some of you reading may dispute this list due to recent happenings in the manga, and I don't blame any of you. However, being more of an anime oriented website, this list is limited to what has been featured in the anime. Of course if this was a manga site, Alfredo Gonzales, Mike Elliot, Wally, and Imai Kyosuke would be included but I will put them in as honorable mentions. Heck, if more anime installments are to be made, this list could be updated in the future. So to you readers, who is on your top pound for pound list?