Kyōsuke Imai (今井 • 京介, lit. Imai Kyōsuke) is a featherweight in fighter and the current JBC Featherweight Champion affiliated with the Otowa Boxing Gym. He is proclaimed the eternal rival of boxing genius Itagaki Manabu, and is known for being a very talented hard puncher capable of holding his own against Makunouchi Ippo.
Prior to his highly anticipated entry into the pro ring, Imai was a two time inter-high boxing champion, defeating his rival Itagaki twice, both times by knockout. Despite his idolisation of Ippo, Imai chose to join any gym but the Kamogawa Boxing Gym in hopes to one day be able to fight Ippo in the ring.
He is again seen in his match against Itagaki in the East Japan Rookie King Tournament final round, where he quickly takes the upper hand in the match with his boxing sense and power punches. Believing this match to be no different from the times he defeated Itagaki in the Inter-High Championships, Imai is surprised when Itagaki's spirit overwhelms his own and suffers his first loss in the sixth round.
After Ippo relinquishes his title, Imai, then ranked number 2 in Japan, meets Itagaki in a match for the title. Imai executes a flawless plan in which he traps Itagaki in the corner at the sound of the bell, then lands one punishing body blow via an exchange which damages Itagaki extensively. He proceeded to knock Itagaki out with an uppercut, claiming the Japanese title and his first professional win over Itagaki.
|WIN||16-1-0||Unknown||KO||1(10)||1999- 02||Tokyo, Japan||2nd Retained JBC Featherweight Title|
|WIN||15-1-0||Unknown||KO||1(10)||1998||Tokyo, Japan||1st Retained JBC Featherweight Title|
|WIN||14-1-0||Itagaki Manabu||TKO||1(10), 1:00||1998-03-21||Tokyo, Japan||Wins JBC Featherweight Title|
|WIN||4-1-0||Unknown||Decision||6(6), 3:00||1996||Tokyo, Japan||Come-back|
|LOSS||3-1-0||Itagaki Manabu||Decision||6(6), 3:00||1995-11||Tokyo, Japan||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Finals|
|WIN||3-0-0||Terai Makoto||TKO||1(4)||1995-11||Tokyo, Japan||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Semi-Finals|
|WIN||2-0-0||Kensuke Itoshiwara||KO||?(4)||1995-11||Tokyo, Japan||East Japan Rookie King Tournament Quarter-Finals|
|WIN||1-0-0||Unknown||KO||?(4)||199?||Tokyo, Japan||Pro Debut|
As a fellow featherweight in-fighter, Imai's body is built strikingly like Ippo's albeit being taller than the latter. He has a dark skin tone, large dark gray eyes, and thick eyebrows. His hair is grown short, cut in between the styles of spiky and curly with five strands of hair hanging from his hairline to his forehead just long enough to brush against his eyebrows.
An incredibly serious and respectful member of the Otowa Boxing Gym, Imai is shown to show great admiration towards fellow featherweight in-fighter Makunouchi Ippo. It is shown that he wishes to befriend Itagaki Manabu sincerely on one occasion, even going as far as calling him by his given name, but quickly recoils and turns harshly confident when the latter refuses his offer of friendship.
He has an unrequited love for Itagaki's younger sister Itagaki Nanako and comes from a rich family. It is mentioned in the anime and manga that Imai's relatives strongly disapprove of his choice to become a boxer.
Despite his youth, Imai has proven to be a very capable fighter, able to defeat Itagaki twice before they turned pro and hold his own against Makunouchi, then the Japanese Champion. He has been compared to Ippo in terms of strength and style as a fellow in-fighter. He fights with an orthodox style, although he tends to make wide swings to scare off his opponents. His main weapons in the ring are his strength and stamina, which make him a powerful hard-punching boxer. According to Ippo, Imai's punching power is greater than Shimabukuro Iwao's, a boxer whose punches were comparable to his own.
Imai doesn't possess any footwork, which makes him easy to out-box. He does, however, compensate for this in his latest battle with Itagaki in which Imai cornered Itagaki.
"Your puny punches won't stop me. [They're] weak weak weak weak WEAK!" -Round 1026
"This isn't just a matter of trying hard. Just look at the stadium right now. This is a professional boxing match, and a title match on top of that. No one's cheering. No one's excited. The whole atmosphere is dead. Does a pro disappoint his paying fans? A pro's only job is to deliver what the fans come to see. At least that's what I think." -Round 1231. Imai to Ippo about Miyata's performance after Ippo's retirement.
- Imai is probably based on WBC Light Welterweight Champion Hamada Tsuyoshi, which also Ippo is likely based after him.
- Although he and Itagaki Manabu purport to dislike each other, they still refer to each other by their first names, "Manabu" and "Kyousuke".
- Imai is the only boxer that hasn't been knocked down in the entire series even during his spar with Miyata Ichirou.