#7 MAKUNOUCHI IPPO vs. JASON OZUMA (Series 1)
For me, this is where the series really begins. All the pre-stuff is cool, of course. The warm up matches, the shenanigans, the training. And the debut match against Oda Yuusuke could’ve been here for similar reasons. The reason this one wins out, though, is because beyond Ozuma being a generally likable character, he also stands as the first opponent who was a genuine threat to Ippo
It’s also the first time we get some more technical jargon for the show, in the form of a discussion of the physiological advantages Ozuma has. They discuss, without any racist backdrop, how a Black man’s body is very well suited to his fighting style, and how this makes him dangerous. These kinds of tidbits were always cool to me; they really show how much the mangaka truly loves what he’s writing about.
Ozuma is a quick but powerful fighter, the show’s first of many “lightning bruiser”-types who would be so dangerous and prevalent in the story. He has a ludicrously damaging hook, one almost as nasty as Takamura’s, and he can do two in rapid succession. Plus, he takes hits like a champ, so Ippo’s gonna need more than one shot to handle him. It’s good to get a first look at Ippo’s more “determinator” aspects, said trait which will evolve to be his defining feature as the series went on. But as I said, the Ozuma episodes are where the show really took off, and this was a great fight to cap it with.
Plus, his Japanese is ADORABLE…