#5 DATE EIJI vs. RICARDO MARTINEZ (Series 2)
In the first series, we meet Date Eiji, the Japanese Featherweight champion. He’s the top dog on the circuit, the man to surpass, the best of his kind…but he’s also aiming for someone. A colossus of a man who is considered by everyone to be one of, if not THE best boxer in the world. The only living superlegend. And the man who, several years before the story, beat a younger and cockier Date into an unrecognizable lump. And it’s time for a rematch.
The man in question is Ricardo Martinez, and he casts a long shadow over the entirety of the main storyline. A man of otherworldly stamina, speed and strength, he’s arguably the best boxer in the entire canon, with his only competition (at this point) being Takamura, who isn’t even in his weight class. Chief among his weapons is the “worlds best jab”, a punch with zero predicable arm movement. In other words, an unreadable punch. To put that in perspective, imagine someone using a gun that can shoot at you without visibly leaving its holster. It’s like that.
Date, however, has also been established as a boxer of the highest tier. His skills are all impeccable, and his main weapon, the Heartbreak Shot (a shot to the chest that causes momentary paralysis by shocking the heart with impact) is a truly handy piece of destruction. It’s a battle between titans, and it’s a great preview of how, despite how good he and his peers are, Ippo is a long way from the world stage.
The fight itself is a beauty, a tug-o-war between two fantastically matched opponents. Date’s determination is the stuff the series is MADE of, and he holds his own magnificently. But Martinez is called “undefeatable” for a reason, and somehow, we know from the moment we see him that there’s no chance. The end of the fight is heartbreaking but inevitable, and it sets Ippo on the path he is still travelling in the manga.
In a more subtle way, this sets the Martinez character up for the rest of the series. Martinez is nothing short of a God of boxers, but he was hard-pressed by this man from a tiny nation across the world. He had to actually try, for the first time in a long time. Sure, it became an unmitigated slaughter when he did, but imagine being bored for years, and then someone finally rouses you to action. More than that, it gets him excited for the first time, for this new generation of boxers coming for him from across the sea. And so until then, until they reach him, the superlegend waits with gloves at the ready…