Makunouchi Ippo, age 29, Japanese featherweight champion. Successfully defend his title for record twenty-five times. The longest reigning champion in Japanese boxing. Boxing fans all around Japan for years had been bemoaning why their favorite champion didn't "moving up to the world stage", but instead just stay in Japan.
Ippo gracefully said that he was satisfied with his title and content with everything he has right now. And most of his fans accept that explanation in stride. But only real boxing fans and Ippo's friend know the real reason why Ippo didn't challenge the world title. It was HIM.
His name is Wally. Age 23, coming from Indonesia. Ippo met him about six years ago, when he was only seventeen year old boy with only three matches under his belt. Almost everyone, including Ippo himself, think that this will be easy match. How wrong everyone was.
The match turn to become the hardest match he ever fought. Sendo with his wild instinct, Mashiba with his almost impossible reach, Shimabukuro with his raw power, Sawamura with his superb talent, but they cannot even be put in the same league Wally was. Even Date, the only boxer to ever defeat Ippo, his talent pales in comparison to him.
In the end, Ippo still win. But for everyone who watch that match, they agree for one thing. That defeat, will become the only defeat Wally ever get in his career.
And it was. After that match, Wally disappear from boxing world for half a year, honing his skill. After he made his comeback, every match he fought become slaughter. Every match never last more than second round, and always, ALWAYS, end with his opponent never even touch him once.
A year after his comeback, the boxing world get the biggest match of the decade. Reigning WBA Featherweight superchampion, Ricardo Martinez of Mexico, accepting Wally's challenge. At that time, Wally was ranked fifth in WBA featherweight ranking, but because NOBODY ranked above him dared to challenge Martinez (who never lost his title defense for the last fifteen years), he get to fight.
The match become the biggest hype of the year, and it was still occupy the sport headlines everywhere when Goran Ivanicevic win Wimbledon that year as the first wildcard champion in over 100 years. Everybody talked about it, and everybody had different opinion. After all, no matter how talented Wally was, he was still only 19 years old, and "only " have record 17-1-0 (17 KO).
The match become the dream of every boxing fans everywhere, but also a nightmare for every boxer who has a dream to reach world title someday. The skill Wally displayed at that match quickly touted as the best moment in boxing history since the inception of the sport. Until this day, people still can't believe that the invincible Ricardo Martinez, defeated at the second round by 19 year old boy.
That match also send a very clear message to every boxer in the world: If you really want to become world champion, don't fight in WBA featherweight division. Move quickly to another class, or fight at another association, because this boy will NEVER get beaten at least ten years.
Six month after that, Wally once again destroyed the spirit of every boxer in featherweight division. He challenge the WBC champion for unification title. And stupidly, the WBC champion accept the challenge. After that, Wally quickly monopolize every world title the boxing world has to offer. WBA,WBC,WBO,IBF. Wally become the world undisputed champion in featherweight class.
And now, four years later, things still same. Featherweight become the bane of every boxer in the world, because they know, nobody gets the chance to reach the world title as long as Wally still active.
Ippo realizes that. Six years ago, he managed to became the only boxer to defeat Wally, only because the boy was only 17 years old with virtually no experience against seasoned boxer. Right now, the boy was no longer a boy. He was 23 years old man with a hell of skill. And he was still in his prime, while Ippo, at 29, already past his best.
Ippo want to be angry. Become a world champion was his dream. But angry at who? At coach Kamogawa? It wasn't his fault. His coach do everything he can to launch Ippo to world stage. At Wally? It wasn't his fault he has everything a boxer dreamed to have. So Ippo didn't do anything, or rather can't do anything, other than end his career as Japanese champion, while watching Wally shine at the top of the world.