Boxing can be a wonderful genre in manga, even if you’re not particularly interested in the sport in real life. If you’re a fan of sports manga in general, you probably know that the sport itself is very much secondary to other things. In other words, what makes a sports manga good isn’t whether the sports interests you or not, but rather how well paced it is, how alluring the characters are, how hype the matches are, and a multitude of other factors.
Boxing manga in particular are, in my opinion, a perfect hybrid between a battle manga and a sports manga. A good boxing manga incorporates all the aspects that make a sports manga good, and apply them to a battle/fighting related theme.
I’m a fan of boxing in real life myself, so some of the items in this list might be more realistic than you’d like, and even educational in a sense. I’ve tried to avoid streetfighting manga that use boxing, but if you want to read one, I highly recommend Holyland by Kouji Mori.
By Mitsuda Takuya
The first manga on the list is Buyuden, a fairly unkown boxing manga that is 134 chapters long. While this list is in no particular order, I put Buyuden at number 5 because it honestly is a bit lacking when compared to the other 4. However, I decided that it definitely deserved a spot, even if a low one, since it’s one of the most educational boxing manga out there.
The main character is an amateur, and the reader learns proper boxing technique and training alongside him, which is quite cool, in my opinion. The cast overall is fairly likeable, albeit a little bit cliched, but it works well enough. It also has a romance element which is done decently enough.
There’s a bit of a twist on one of the characters about halfway through which is very unexpected, and I’ve never seen a manga do something like it before. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s not like it’s something amazing, it’s just… weird. If you read it, you’ll see.
By Watanabe Jun
Most boxing manga star a high schooler who is just getting into boxing, or at worst, a guy in his early 20s. RRR is the only exception I know to this rule. The main character is 27 years old, which many would say is too old to start competing in boxing. RRR is the story of how natural talent and hard work can make that happen.
The main character is basically a “loser” at the start, a person who hasn’t still achieved the things he set out to do. But due to some circumstances in his life, he is forced to become a better person and give it his all to succeed.
It’s also fairly short for a boxing manga at only 106 chapters (Most stuff in this list has 150 or more.)
By Adachi Mitsuru
Katsu! is a very standard Adachi manga. If you’ve read any other of his works, you know what I mean. In case you haven’t, Adachi is well known for his baseball manga, which usually focus more on a romance storyline than on the sport itself.
He does this type of stuff really well, though. His manga Touch is one of the best selling manga of all time, having sold over 100 million copies. Now, I know this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s any good, but in this case, it is. Adachi is a master storyteller who knows exactly how and when to develop characters using sports as a catalyst.
Katsu is a manga that can be read by absolutely any manga fan, as it has a bit of everything. It has fights, it has hype sport matches, it has romance, and great character development. It is very much a jack-of-all-trades manga, and a master of plenty of them.
2) Ashita no Joe
By Kajiwara Ikki & Chiba Tetsuya
Ashita no Joe is an absolute classic in the anime and manga industry, having been referenced in hundreds of different shows, most of which have nothing to do with boxing or sports in general. It’s not just famous because it’s old – Ashita no Joe does well what so many sports manga don’t – tell a compelling story.
Reading Ashita no Joe is a sublime experience. You get deeply invested in the characters and hope for their success, rooting for them all the way through. The many emotional scenes don’t feel forced at all and fit the flow of the story well.
This makes the boxing matches themselves very hype, but in a different way than usual. The motivations of the characters are more interesting than the usual “I can’t lose here! I want to be the best!” and stuff like that. You can feel the actual stakes of every match, the pressure that the main characters feel. It’s really well done.
Some might call the art style outdated, but I personally think it fits the type of story quite well. The style is very similar to Tezuka’s.
1) Hajime no Ippo
By Morikawa George
Hajime no Ippo is one of the longest running manga of all time, with well above 1000 chapters as of 2017. It’s been ongoing since 1989, and is definitely a cult classic at this point. For the first 300-400 chapters, it’s absolutely one of the very best sports manga of all time.
You might think that a 1000 chapters manga is probably very slow paced, and potentially even boring. This is not the case with Ippo. Ippo has a huge cast of lovable characters that you really start to care for after reading their adventures for hundreds and hundreds of chapter.
Every single character gets their own arcs, fights and developments. The fights themselves are super entertaining and will leave you at the edge of your seat each time. Some of them, including the pre-fight preparations and character presentations, last over 100 chapters!
In any case, if you’re a fan of boxing manga, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t read Ippo. Like I said, don’t get scared by the huge chapter count. Start reading it and see how it goes. You’ll be hooked in no time.
And that’s all for the top 5 boxing manga list. If you’d like to see a list with my 10 sports manga, click here. If you have any additional recommendations, or if you want to discuss any of the manga on this list, feel free to leave a comment!