Hajime no Keitaro: Wolf vs. Gazelle
Keitaro tossed and turned most of the previous night. He stood in his room, staring at his reflection in the mirror. He thought he looked fatigued, but certainly did not feel it. He was full of nervous energy.
Today was to be the day he would experience his first real-life boxing match. The fact he would be merely a spectator did nothing to quell the churning in his stomach.
"You look like a wreck," Kitsune noted to him during breakfast twenty minutes later.
"What's on your mind?"
Keitaro shook his head vigorously. "I just didn't sleep well last night. I'm fine, really."
"When will you be home tonight, sempai?" Shinobu asked him.
"Most likely not until very late," he responded. "Don't wait up for me."
Chopsticks clinking against china and the occasional slurp were the only sounds in the room for the remainder of the meal.
Keitaro told everyone about the match today, and he expounded that he was merely a spectator, and that only because Ippo had furnished him a ticket.
Two things kept him from acquiring more: he lacked the money to furnish a Hinata Sou field trip for everyone and the tickets were sold out anyway.
When Ippo gave Keitaro his ticket, he asked him why he didn't give it to someone closer to him, such as his mother. "She doesn't like to see me get hurt," Ippo had explained. Keitaro concluded after that that everyone he knew would likely show up to his debut match, if just to revel in the joy of seeing him get his clock cleaned.
Keitaro donned his jacket and kicked his feet into his shoes.
"I'm leaving now," he said, waving to the group of girls standing in the middle of the common room.
"Wish Ippo-kun luck for us, would you?" Kitsune asked, returning Keitaro's wave.
"Got a wager in on it?" Naru asked, elbowing her friend in the side.
"Shut up," Kitsune murmured, glowering at Naru.
"Will do," Keitaro said with a smile, letting himself out the door.
Gazing up at the clear sky, he took a deep breath and let it out deliberately.
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Outside, he could finally expend some of the energy built up inside him. He dashed across the courtyard and bounded down the stairs.
When Keitaro arrived at Korakuen Hall, he was astonished by the size of the crowd gathered outside the building. Not only was there a significant line outside the entrance of the hall, but there was yet another outside the Will Call window.
Groaning, he looked at his watch, wondering if he would get to his seat on time to see any part of the undercard.
Twenty minutes later, he had his ticket in hand and joined the ever-growing line to get inside the building. He eyed several reporters casing the crowd, asking their predictions for the fight's main event. Eventually, one of the reporters, clad in a cheap business suit caught Keitaro's eye. He was walking right towards him!
He took the cigarette out of his mouth before asking him, "I know you, don't I?"
"Are you talking to me?" Keitaro asked, pointing at himself.
"Yes. You're the newest member of the Kamogawa Gym, Keitaro Urashima, aren't you?"
"Y-yeah, that's me," Keitaro responded. "How do you know me, though?"
The man laughed lightheartedly.
"I suppose I should introduce myself, huh? I'm Fuji Minoru. I'm a writer for 'Boxing Fan Magazine'."
A sudden realization made Keitaro snap his fingers. "Ah, now I remember. I've seen you around the gym a few times, talking with Coach."
"That's right! I heard you got your license a couple of weeks ago.
Congratulations on that."
"Thanks," Keitaro said. He was flustered that someone that works in print would know him, since he had yet to debut.
"You know, nothing but great things have been coming out of Kamogawa since your sempai first stepped into the ring.
Are you the next big thing on the horizon?" Fuji clicked his pen and placed it on a pad of paper, ready to write his response down for the record.
Keitaro protested, "N-no way.
I haven't even debuted yet."
Fuji put his pen into his jacket pocket and pulled a long drag from the cigarette hanging from his lips. "You act just like Makunouchi. I guess you are worthy of being his kouhai after all."
"Thank you," Keitaro said, bowing slightly.
"Now, speaking as Makunouchi's kouhai," Fuji began again, retrieving his pen once more, "care to give an insider's prediction on the outcome of his match this evening?"
"Um, well, I know Ippo-san is in his best condition for the fight tonight, and he's going to give it 100.
I know that his opponent is a former amateur world champion, so you can't count out either of them. I wouldn't be mad if Ippo-san came out on top at the end, though."
Fuji finished writing Keitaro's statement down, chuckling. "That was pretty good, Keitaro-kun. Thanks for the statement. I'll be sure to be there when you debut, too."
"It was nice to meet you, Fuji-san," Keitaro said, shaking the reporter's hand. He watched as Fuji met up with another reporter and they entered the building through the press entrance.
At long last, Keitaro handed his ticket to an attendant near the entrance, who ripped it in two and handed him the stub with his assigned seat number.
Entering the hall when it was full ironically made it appear much larger. The ring looked much further away than he remembered. The first match on the undercard was already underway, with two unknown's brawling in the center of the ring.
Keitaro's ears perked up when he heard a familiar voice calling his name.
He turned his head to see Aoki and Kimura waving him over. Looking at his seat number, he realized he was assigned a seat with the two of them.
Meandering through the crowd, Keitaro made his way over to them. "Hey, you guys," he greeted them, sitting in his seat.
Aoki slapped him hard on the back with a grin.
"Welcome to your first match!"
"You must be pretty excited," Kimura said.
"Yeah," Keitaro admitted.
Hajime no Ippo【はじめの一歩 THE FIGHTING!】Best Moments #8►To Enemy Ground FULL HD
"Is it always this busy, though? It took forever to get in here."
"Not usually this early, but the main event tonight sure to be a huge crowd pleaser," Kimura explained.
"Yeah, this definitely has the feel of a title match," Aoki said, looking around at the crush of people lining each row.
Keitaro gestured towards the ring. "Who are these two guys?"
"Ah, who cares?" Aoki grumbled. "The only match that matters is the last one anyway."
"Just sit back and enjoy," Kimura said.
Keitaro nodded and turned his head back towards the ring.
As the matches progressed, the number of faces and gestures Keitaro made whenever a clean hit or down was scored amused Aoki and Kimura.
They could tell he was really enjoying himself. "Just wait until Ippo's match," Kimura said when the crowd roared so loudly after a KO that Keitaro nearly jumped out of his seat.
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"The crowd will be this loud between rounds."
"You're kidding," Keitaro said, awestruck.
"Just wait and see," Aoki interjected with a wink. "I think Ippo is up next anyway."
The main event was indeed next, as the crowd began to stir with exuberant enthusiasm.
Chants began to break out sporadically for one side or the other, and it seemed as time passed, more of the crowd rose to their feet and remained standing.
Abruptly, the lights in the arena turned off, and the audience exploded with cheers. A spotlight shone on one corner of the hall, and another on the opposite corner. Ippo and Vorg entered into the spotlights, followed closely by their trainers and their entourages.
Keitaro almost needed to clamp his hands over his ears because the crowd noise was so intense.
Not until both fighters entered the ring and the ring announcer, wearing an immaculate tuxedo, stepped to the middle of the ring with a microphone in hand did the noise finally die down. For a few seconds before the announcer raised the microphone to his mouth, Keitaro could have sworn he could hear a pin drop.
"Ladies and gentleman," the announcer began, pausing as the crowd roared to life once more. "Dynamite Glove proudly presents the main event of the evening: the Class A Prize Money Tournament final in the Featherweight division; eight rounds of boxing to determine the number one contender for the Japanese Boxing Commission Featherweight Championship!" Keitaro was dumbfounded, as the crowd roared in applause once more, that Ippo and his opponent were able to completely ignore the utter lunacy going on around them.
They each walked around in their corners, eyeing the floor beneath them, throwing punches to keep their bodies warmed up.
"Introducing first, in the red corner, fighting out of the great country of Russia, the former amateur world champion, Vorg…Zangief!" The foreigner raised a fist to acknowledge the crowd, which seemed to be split in half with cheers and boos.
[T] Hajime no Ippo Maifa
"And in the blur corner," the announcer lowered his microphone as the crowd became deafening with cheers of "Makunouchi". "In the blue corner," the announcer said more loudly into the microphone over the din, "from the great city of Tokyo, the undefeated comeback KO kid, Ippo…Makunouchi!"
The chants continued at the same thunderous volume as the fighters met in center ring for the in-ring instructions from the referee.
When the fighters returned to their corners, the cheers died down significantly, but were still loud enough so that Keitaro still needed to yell so that Kimura and Aoki could hear him. "Ippo-san looks like he's in great condition!"
"Yeah, that Vorg is looking like he's in top form too," Aoki added.
"Ippo is looking more tense than normal, though," Kimura said, looking at how Ippo seemed to be wrinkling his brow as he stretched along the ropes.
"He must be feeling the intensity of the pressure of this match."
Keitaro began to worry for his sempai, but before long he realized there was nothing he could do from where he was and decided to cheer for Ippo until the bitter end.
The bell rang loudly, and the crowd came alive again as the competitors took their fighting stances, Ippo in the peek-a-boo, and Vorg in an orthodox style.
The tension in the ring became palpable as the two fighters calmly approached each other. Quite suddenly, Ippo crouched down, weaving his head back and forth, while Vorg crouched down at the same time and dashed forward.
Keitaro gasped audibly. "So fast," he mumbled.
Ippo was put back on the defensive as Vorg threw left after left at close range. Keitaro could see Kamogawa bellowing something but could not make it out from the noise of the sell-out crowd.
Ippo responded to his trainer's order, whatever it was, by throwing jabs of his own.
Keitaro was amazed as he watched Ippo stand toe-to-toe with the amateur world champion, each of them throwing quick lefts to try to land the opening blow of the match.
The equilibrium was broken when Vorg slipped a jab and landed a sharp right uppercut. Ippo took a step back and raised his guard, but Vorg blasted it away with another uppercut with his left hand.
Having taken the first two clean blows of the fight, Ippo took a quick step backwards, but found himself trapped against the ropes.
"This guy is damn good," Aoki noted, his eyes widening.
"He changed his rhythm so quickly, Ippo never saw those uppers coming," Kimura said, equally surprised.
Ippo curled his body into a ball and tightened his guard, but Vorg ripped it open again with a quick succession of short uppers.
A left hook followed, but Ippo ducked under it and moved away from the ropes. Vorg quickly cut him off, and pounded into his tight guard with rights and lefts, pinning him into the neutral corner.
"He's completely on the defensive," Keitaro said.
"He won't stand a chance if he doesn't hit him back!"
Vorg landed a crushing uppercut followed by a hook to send Ippo reeling.
"He's completely out of it," Aoki screeched, pulling at his hair. "Look out, Ippo!"
When Vorg stepped back to finish Ippo off, Ippo started to throw out compact lefts and rights, forcing Vorg back to center ring.
The crowd rose to its feet, and the Makunouchi chants thundered out once again. Ippo suddenly stopped wobbling, and Keitaro could see him shake his head once, then twice.
"Is that possible?" Keitaro asked. "To throw out punches like that, even when you are unconscious?"
Kimura squinted down at the ring as the two fighters cautiously closed on each other once more. "Under normal circumstances, no. But Ippo is anything but normal. You could say he is like a bell. The harder you hit him, the louder his response."
Ippo took the initiative as he entered firing range. He threw out several concise jabs and Vorg returned with his own.
Eventually, the two bumped their shoulders together aggressively, continuing to throw compact blows to the head and body. The two continued to exchange punches as the bell rang to conclude the first round.
"Great job, Makunouchi!"
"Way to keep up with the world champ, Makunouchi!"
"Beat him next round!"
Keitaro panted as he realized he had been holding his breath during the time the two had locked horns at center ring.
"That was something else," he said.
"The fight is going exactly as coach Kamogawa planned it," Aoki noted.
Keitaro was dumbstruck. It was planned for Ippo to step right into the amateur world champion's killing zone and trade hits with him. If he were asked to do such a thing, he highly doubted he would be able to withstand it for merely a few seconds, let alone for eight full rounds.
"Round two!" the ringside announcer said into the intercom, and a second later, the bell rang to commence the round.
The fighters rushed to the middle and met shoulders once again.
The hitting match from the latter part of the previous round continued, but as time passed, Vorg's punches seemed to be slightly faster and sharper. At last, two minutes into the round, a down-up combination sent Ippo's head flying backward and Vorg moved in for the kill.
"Ippo's gonna lose," Keitaro wailed, clutching his head in his hands, not wanting to watch his sempai be defeated but unable to look away.
Ippo ducked under Vorg's right cross at the last possible instant.
With Vorg badly out of position, Ippo jumped forward, landing a tremendous left hook to Vorg's chin. Vorg stumbled backwards from the force of the blow, and his glove touched the canvas to the delight of the crowd.
"Down! To the neutral corner!" the referee ordered Ippo, pointing towards the ring post furthest away.
As Ippo walked towards the corner gasping for breath, the referee administered the count to the fallen Vorg.
"What the hell was that punch?" Keitaro asked, completely stunned by the sudden turn of events.
Aoki and Kimura were rather surprised by Ippo flipping the match so suddenly, but chuckled at Keitaro's flabbergasted reaction. Ippo's comebacks were commonplace, but to the first-time viewer, it must seem surreal.
"The Gazelle Punch," Kimura explained.
"The what-now?" Keitaro asked.
"It's a vertical hook that uses your lower body weight to supply the power.
You duck down and jump forward, putting your entire weight into the punch."
"It was supposed to be Ippo's Sunday punch, but I don't think that's going to happen here," Aoki said, pointing back towards the ring.
As the referee reached the count of eight, Vorg stood straight up with no effort and took his fighting pose. Giving him a look up and down, the referee then stepped aside and allowed the match to continue.
Ippo rushed out of his corner and started pounding away with heavy swings over Vorg's guard.
But his defense held well, and Ippo's punches soon began connecting with air.
Ippo ducked another right cross and crouched into the position for the Gazelle Punch and let the left hook fly, but this time Vorg guarded it perfectly. Bolstered by blocking his opponent's best weapon, Vorg began a vicious counter-attack, showing absolutely no damage from the knockdown he took thirty seconds prior.
A left hook left Ippo's legs shaking like a leaf in the wind and Vorg stepped back to fire a right uppercut.
Ippo clenched his guard together and blocked it, but at once, a left crashed into his head, and he tumbled sideways, falling to the canvas.
"Holy shit, he just took a huge one," Aoki exclaimed in shock.
"That chopping left hit him behind the ear," Kimura stated. "He'll be lucky if he can get back up from that!"
Keitaro's may have looked like he had just died in shock. It looked to him just a moment ago that Ippo was about to win the match by knockout, and now he could only hope that he would not lose by the same decision.
Ippo stood up on the count of three, but immediately fell backwards onto his behind.
Desperate to get his legs underneath him, Ippo clung to the ropes and forcefully pulled himself back to his feet.
By count eight, he had his feet planted underneath him and his guard up.
The referee called for the match to continue, but the bell sounded before the fighters could clash again.
"I'm exhausted from just watching this," Keitaro said, falling backwards into his chair.
"Just imagine how it must be for Ippo right now," Aoki said.
Just when Ippo thought he had the match won, Vorg blocked his finisher, hit him with his own finisher, the White Fang, and knocked him down," Kimura said. "What can he do now?"
"Round three!" the announcer stated, and the bell rang once more.
Ippo stood close to his corner, his breathing ragged. Vorg closed in carefully, trying to judge Ippo's damage. As he inched closer, Ippo opened his guard, inviting the hitting match to commence once again. Vorg complied, stepping into Ippo and just grazing his cheek with another of his patented right uppercuts.
Ippo fired back with a flurry, at last piercing through Vorg's guard and landing a hard left hand.
Vorg responded with a right to Ippo's body followed by a left to the head that sent Ippo crashing into the ropes. Vorg rushed in, beating on Ippo like a rag doll before the referee stepped in and called for a standing eight count.
Keitaro could feel his chest tighten as the referee continued with the count. Ippo looked to be completely out of it, clinging to the ropes to remain standing.
However, by the end of the count, Ippo had raised his hands and the referee called for the match to continue.
Vorg closed in immediately, and with one right uppercut, Ippo was felled for the second knockdown of the round.
"This is the end," Kimura said.
"He's got nothing left."
Keitaro clenched his teeth, fighting hard against the burning sensation creeping into his eyes. Ippo would stand up. He had to. There was no way he would lose with his kouhai watching him. "Get up, Ippo! You can do it!" he cheered, cupping his hands to his mouth.
He nudged Aoki and Kimura. "You guys cheer for him too!"
"You're right, Keitaro! Let's go, Ippo! Get up and beat the snot out of him!"
Responding to the throng's call for him to continue, Ippo slowly rose and raised his hands. The referee took an extra second to gauge Ippo before he let the match continue yet again to the delight of the capacity crowd.
Vorg looked surprised by the referee's call, but he darted in immediately to attempt to end the match.
Ippo landed a right hook out of nowhere as Vorg dived in, and he kept up the pressure with a swarm of punches.
"What amazing stamina he has," Keitaro said, and Aoki and Kimura agreed.
Ippo began to take the upper hand in hits until Vorg landed a splendid right hand as the round wound to a close. Kamogawa was in the ring in an instant when the bell rang, keeping Vorg from hitting Ippo after the bell.
"He made it through, somehow," Keitaro said, his voice hoarse from shouting.
He started to wonder if the match would ever end, when he realized that was only three rounds. His first match would last as long as four. He wondered, as Ippo stood once more to return to battle, if he would be as bloody and beaten as Ippo when he stepped in the ring for the first time.
"Round four!" The bell rang, and the fighters ran together like magnets, clashing in the middle of the ring.
To a casual observer, this round would have appeared to be the same as the last three, but to the trained eye, it was obvious Vorg's tactic had changed.
"He's going to Ippo's body!" Keitaro cried out.
"Damn. They figured out the key to Ippo's ability to take so many shots," Kimura said.
"He's taking Ippo's legs out from under him," Aoki said in frustration.
Vorg continued to dodge Ippo's attacks and counter to the body, slamming power shots into his abdomen over and over.
When Ippo's heels hit the canvas, Vorg immediately switched to attacking Ippo's head with fierce combinations.
Eventually, Ippo ran out of gas, leaning against the ropes with his guard completely down. Vorg cocked his right back and fired, but missed completely as his body stumbled forward and his legs gave out from underneath him.
"What happened?" Keitaro asked, looking at Aoki and Kimura to his right and left.
"He did it, finally," Aoki muttered.
"Vorg has run out of stamina," Kimura said, wide-eyed.
Noticing his opponent had weakened, Ippo pushed off the ropes and hammered Vorg with a right straight that sent his entire upper body flying backwards.
Capitalizing on the change, Ippo found another gear, landing left and rights with tremendous speed and accuracy.
Vorg, responding to his trainer's call to fight back, threw punches back at Ippo, but the snap in them was long gone. Ippo ducked a wide right hand, and Keitaro noticed he was in the perfect position for the Gazelle Punch.
Something felt wrong to him, though, and his suspicions were confirmed as Vorg swung his guard in tight. If Ippo missed with his Gazelle Punch, Vorg would counter with his White Fang and put Ippo out for good.
Keitaro clenched his eyes shut as Ippo bounded upwards to throw the Gazelle Punch, but a sudden roar from the crowd made him snap his eyes back open.
Ippo had somehow landed his Gazelle Punch to Vorg's body, and he was slumped over in agony. As the crowd's cheering became almost unbearable, Ippo threw a rapid series of combinations that left Vorg collapsed on his hands and knees.
"He did it again!
I don't believe it!" Aoki screamed.
"And stay down this time!" Kimura cheered.
Keitaro felt his heart pounding in his chest as the count continued. Most unexpectedly for anyone that had seen the brutal knockdown, Vorg raised his upper body from the canvas at the count of six, and pulled himself up to his feet by count eight.
The crowd quieted considerably as the referee trained his eyes on Vorg to see if he was able to continue.
The very moment the referee turned towards Ippo to call for the match to continue, Ippo burst out of the neutral corner and pinned Vorg against the ropes with a tremendous flurry.
With his arms flying side-to-side from the force of Ippo's rush, Vorg flung his body forwards and pinned Ippo's arms at his side by clinching him as tightly as he could.
The referee jumped between them, calling for Vorg to break the hold, but he simply clung tighter to his opponent.
"I don't blame him at all for trying to hang on like that," Aoki said, glancing between the fight clock and the ring.
"Right," Kimura said, nodding his head in approval.
"It might look like he's really desperate, but it's actually a move only a cagey veteran like him could use at this point."
The referee at last separated the fighters, and Ippo took several quick breaths before closing the distance again. Vorg fired first, throwing a ragged left jab that Ippo blocked, followed by a right hook that may as well have been in slow motion.
Even still, Ippo just barely moved his head out of the way.
Vorg continued to press his attack, but his fists only caught air.
Ippo fired back, easily knocking Vorg's guard away, but when he stepped in to capitalize, the bell called for the end of the round. Keitaro watched the two fighters stumble back to their corners, their heads hung low and their breathing rapid and ragged.
"Did you see what I saw at the end of that round?" Kimura asked.
"I just saw Ippo moving in for the kill until the bell saved Vorg," Keitaro said.
"I wonder just who the bell saved.
Just before the bell, Vorg was in the position to throw out his White Fang," Aoki said.
This fight isn't over, yet. Vorg still has his finisher, and Ippo wasn't able to land his the last time he tried," Kimura said.
"And Ippo has got to be at his limit," Aoki postulated. "He's never taken this many punches in a match. If he doesn't end it in this next round, Kamogawa could very well throw in the towel!"
Keitaro was horrified that the worst-case scenario was still a possibility, even though Ippo seemed to get a decisive knockdown in the last round.
Even still, he could not ignore the wealth of knowledge being passed on to him by his sempai from the ring. He would watch all the way to the end, regardless of the outcome. Gritting his teeth, he brooded down upon the ring below.
"Round five!" The crowd was relatively quiet with anticipation as the bell rang to commence the round.
Both fighters stepped forward cautiously. As they both reached the middle of the ring, they widened their stances and opened their guards, each giving a clear challenge to the other.
They would decide the match by an inside exchange.
The crowd erupted as the fighters began brawling in the middle of the ring, as if the people in attendance could also feel the fight reaching a fevered pitch.
The melee was relentless, each landing a multitude of blows to the face and body, but neither backed down.
Each clean hit was met with two in return, the dull sounds of gloves on flesh echoing through the hall. Even from his distant vantage point, Keitaro could tell the two were running out of oxygen as they began to turn blue in the face.
Ippo's head was suddenly rocked backwards by a stiff right hook and Vorg quickly shifted his stance.
Keitaro recognized it immediately, and he leaped out of his seat.
"He's gonna go for the White Fang!"
With blazing agility, Ippo ducked down to avoid the right upper, and Vorg's following chopping left cut through the air as Ippo swayed backwards.
"H-he avoided it completely!" Aoki stammered.
Vorg had reached the absolute end of his rope, as his strongest weapon was defeated.
He lifted his head, gasping for breath. Ippo pounced, dipping his hips down as far as they could from a standing position, and he cocked his left into position. Keitaro felt a chill go down his spine as he watched Ippo fire a massive Gazelle Punch that landed squarely against Vorg's chin, sending him into a tailspin.
The impact was incredible; Keitaro could have sworn a bomb went off in center ring.
Like a puppet cut from its strings, Vorg crumpled to one knee. The crowd went absolutely ballistic, Keitaro, Aoki, and Kimura included, and the referee had to shout his order for Ippo to return to the neutral corner.
As the count commenced, Ippo had to wrap an arm around the rope in the corner to remain on his feet.
Vorg remained completely motionless until the count of seven when, to the astonishment of all in attendance, he suddenly lifted himself into a standing position.
The count persisted however, since he had not lifted his hands into a fighting pose. Keitaro was surprised as he saw the smallest of smiles play across Vorg's face before he collapsed forward into the arms of the referee.
"Ten!" the referee called out, grabbing the fallen fighter to prevent him from taking a dangerous spill onto his head.
Keitaro raised both hands over his head, screaming out loud as hard as he could.
In the ring, Ippo collapsed in the corner, raising his arms in victory. Aoki lifted Keitaro up from the floor, waving him over his head. Kimura was nearly jumping up and down where he stood, clapping his hands.
As the bedlam died down, a stretcher was brought to the ring for the fallen Vorg, but it was deemed unnecessary when he stood on his own power and approached Ippo.
Applause rained down as the two fighters congratulated each other on what was surely the fight of both of their lives.
Suddenly, Ippo collapsed to the canvas, unable to stand under his own two feet. Kamogawa called for the stretcher to return for his own boxer, and before Keitaro, Aoki, and Kimura could dislodge from the crowd, Ippo was whisked away from the ring and sent to a nearby hospital.
They were fortunate to catch a cab as soon as they exited the arena, and just as Ippo was stabilized and checked into a room, they caught up to Kamogawa and the rest of the corner crew in the hospital lobby.
"Is Ippo okay?" Aoki asked immediately, skipping the formalities.
"It seems so," Kamogawa explained.
"However, he's still unconscious and they want to keep him for a few days for observation."
Everyone let out a sigh of relief, and everyone enjoyed a few moments of silence after the preceding stressful events.
Keitaro remained for another hour, paying a short visit to Ippo before excusing himself. He still had a group of people awaiting his return at home, after all.
Sitting on the train bound for Hinata Onsen, Keitaro was mentally exhausted, yet he felt an unexplainable energy coursing throughout his own body. Seeing Ippo win, despite the fact he had been hospitalized for his efforts, charged him full of adrenaline.
Hajime no ippo swarm
He wanted to follow the same path Ippo did. He wanted to get into the ring, lock horns with a strong opponent, and emerge victorious.
ONE WEEK LATER…
"Are you absolutely sure about this selection, coach?" Yagi asked.
"To have him fight a prodigy in his debut match, isn't that asking too much of Keitaro-kun?"
"I'm absolutely sure," Kamogawa answered, leaning back in his chair, brooding out his office window.
"Isn't that setting him up for failure? Why not match him against another debut boxer? Are you even thinking about his future?"
"This is the perfect opportunity to see exactly what kind of boxer he is," Kamogawa explained calmly.
"How does he respond to adversity? What kind of spirit does he have?
[Spoiler][Portuguese] Round 1267 (Rough translation in comments)
Can he overcome impossible odds? If he can't do that much, he doesn't belong in this sport!"
Yagi was unconvinced. "I'll make the call, but I want you to know that it will be under protest." Yagi moved towards the door. As far as he was concerned, the conversation was over.
Kamogawa stopped him.
"Have I ever let you down before, Yagi?"
Yagi turned the doorknob and opened the door. "There's a first time for everything, coach." With that, he left the office and closed the door firmly behind him.
Keitaro broke from his sprint, stopping dead in his tracks.
He stepped forward one step at a time, throwing one fluid, endless combination of punches at the air in front of him, bobbing and weaving his head the whole time. He kept throwing punches until he felt a familiar burning sensation in both of his shoulders.
He gritted his teeth against the pain, continuing his flurry of lefts and rights until he could no longer bear the agony.
Relaxing his stance, he broke into another dash, running as fast as his weary legs would carry him.
He turned one final corner, wheezing as Kamogawa Gym came into view. As he approached, he saw a face he recognized approach the gym from the opposite direction. The face was still bandaged and slightly bruised, but it was unmistakable.
Hajime no Ippo: THE FIGHTING! DS – REVIEWED!
Finding a renewed strength, Keitaro charged forward, meeting Ippo in front of the gym.
"Just finishing your roadwork?" Ippo asked cheerfully.
Keitaro nodded, unable to find the breath to manage a verbal response. His body collapsed forward, and he placed his hands on his knees.
"It's good to see you working so hard," Ippo said, somewhat forlornly.
"What are you doing here?" Keitaro said as he quickly recovered. "Shouldn't you be at home resting up? It's been barely a week since that death match."
"Yeah, well, I was bored sitting around doing nothing, so I thought I would just stop in and check up on things."
Keitaro nodded. Ippo's next match would be a title match. How could anyone expect him to just sit around for so long doing nothing? It was like giving a child a Christmas present in the middle of October, and telling the child they cannot open the present until Christmas day.
Ippo's presence caused a bit of commotion around the gym when he and Keitaro entered.
Some of the members congratulated him on his latest victory; others suggested he go back home immediately so he could recover from his damage. Ippo allayed their fears, telling them he was just fine, although the look of his face told a different story.
"Kid!" shouted an all-too-familiar guttural voice.
Both Ippo and Keitaro spun around on the spot to face Kamogawa, who was glaring malevolently in their direction.
"Yes!" Keitaro and Ippo shouted in unison.
Kamogawa marched directly towards them, holding his cane in a threatening manner. "What the hell are you doing here? I thought I told you to stay out of my gym until I told you otherwise!"
"Sorry!" the two young men yelped at once and turned tail to flee from the gym.
Kamogawa snagged Keitaro by the nape of his neck with the hook of his cane, preventing him from running by force.
"If I catch you back here in the next three days, I'm going to personally put you back in the hospital," Kamogawa roared at Ippo as he ran out of the building. "Stop fussing, Keitaro.
I wasn't talking to you," Kamogawa said with more than a touch of annoyance, releasing his cane from Keitaro's shirt.
"Before you leave, meet me in my office. There's something important we need to discuss." As was his modus operandi, Kamogawa turned and headed back towards his office without waiting for a reply from Keitaro.
"Yes, sir," Keitaro mumbled at Kamogawa's back. As he showered and changed, he wondered exactly what kind of trouble he, or one of his sempai who-shall-not-be-named, had gotten him into this time.
When he knocked on the door to Kamogawa's office, his hands were nearly shaking in fear and anticipation.
"Come in!" came Kamogawa's voice from the other side of the portal. As Keitaro entered, he saw Kamogawa sitting in his chair as usual, with Yagi standing directly to his right.
Both of the older men were giving him the sternest looks he could recall. Yagi motioned Keitaro wordlessly to sit, and Keitaro complied. He sat in a most uncomfortable silence until Kamogawa finally spoke.
"It has been decided."
Keitaro glanced between Kamogawa and Yagi a few times as Kamogawa refused to elaborate on exactly what had been decided. As the seconds ticked away on the wall clock behind him, Keitaro felt the sense of dread having over him grow ever stronger, taking the shape of a cloaked reaper about to cleave his soul from his body.
"In two months, you will be fighting in your first match," Kamogawa said at last.
Within the span of a second, Keitaro felt the dread in his mind dispelled completely, then returned to him tenfold. The pressure was so intense it dulled his senses.
He could see that Kamogawa and Yagi were talking to him, but he could not for the life of him make out a single syllable. He heard nothing except a myriad of cacophonous laughing coming from the distance.
"Your opponent," Kamogawa said sternly, and Keitaro was pulled instantly from his daze, and he could hear Kamogawa's voice clearly once more. "Your opponent's name is Kentaro Sakata."
Next time on Hajime no Keitaro: Keitaro's first opponent is finally revealed, but the fighter behind the name is truly a force to be reckoned with.
Will two months of intense training be enough for him to overcome the seemingly impossible odds facing him? Will he have the support he needs from the women in his life? Find out next time on Hajime no Keitaro!