Ryuuhei Sawamura (沢村 竜平, lit. Sawamura Ryūhei) is a semi-recurring character in Hajime no Ippo.
He was a Featherweight professional boxer and then by moving up a weight class, the former short-reigned JBC Junior Lightweight Champion which has since retired from boxing due to a bike accident he had after that certain title match.
His main boxing matches in the series were against Makunouchi Ippo in the Rising Saga, as the 5th and strongest challenger Ippo ever faced, and about a year later the unsettling title match against Mashiba Ryō.
His surname is Sawamura. In Japan, surnames are listed before given names.
Sawamura is a lonely, violent individual who had gone through a very painful childhood. As a child, his stepfather was an alcoholic who regularly physically and mentally abused Sawamura and his mother. Eventually Sawamura stabbed his stepfather with a knife in order to protect his mother. Whether this was in self defense or not is unknown. Soon afterwards, his mother places him in the care of the state while telling him she is looking for a job, when in reality, he is being abandoned by his own mother. He takes three years to realize she abandoned him.
His isolation and bitterness is only amplified when he is falsely condemned for killing doves that he had fed. His only friends are his old teacher from middle school and Sendō Takeshi, though he treats neither of them as such.
A few years later his teacher introduces him to boxing, to a friend of his Karil who is the coach of the gym. Ryuuhei becomes by time a natural violent professional boxer with a tendency to foul when there is reason.
At the same time he takes a job like most characters in the series aside boxing, which is that of a construction worker. He prefers it over any other job because of the heights he sees, equalling the heights he will see when he becomes the national champion one day.
He eventually fights Ippo for the JBC Featherweight title. He is the second challenger of Ippo's to develop a counter to the Dempsey Roll, but is the first to succeed in using it without getting hurt by Ippo in return. In the fourth round, Sawamura all but has victory in his grasp, but he postpones to win by KO Ippo and ending the match to instead cause further damage. Ippo then executes his Dempsey Roll counter counter in the following rounds and defeats Sawamura. Following his loss, Sawamura is seen to be greatly embittered in the hospital and angrily lashes out at Sendo who is consulting him nearby. However, it is not until Sendo tells Sawamura that Kawabe was bought up in the same institution as him did he finally realize he had someone who relates to his struggles of loneliness. Later, when Kawabe catches up with Sendo and asks of Sawamura, Sendo tells him that after he gets out, he's going to treat his teacher to an all you can eat.
After his loss against Ippo, he begins to realize the value of hard work, and sets Ippo as his goal, wanting to "experience the same heights as Makunouchi". Mashiba challenges him to a title match because Sawamura had attacked his sister prior to the Ippo match. The bout begins and although both boxers appear to be equally matched, a series of fouls from Sawamura eventually turns the tides of the fight in his favor, and Mashiba eventually gets knocked down twice. Unimpressed by Mashiba's performance after the second knockdown, Sawamura brutally kicks a downed Mashiba in the head, much to the outrage from Toho and fans alike.
After Mashiba realizes this revelation, the match turns into an all-out street fight, and Mashiba eventually manages to headbutt Sawamura in the eye, putting him at an extreme disadvantage by partly obstructing his vision. With Sawamura's injury, Mashiba manages to bring the fight back into equal grounds. After a brutal mudfight between the two, Sawamura eventually manages to down Mashiba again, but the latter musters up the strength to continue fighting. Before the referee signals to begin the fight, Mashiba sucker punches Sawamura and proceeds to brutalize him, leaving him in a bloody mess and causing him to free fall out of the ring. Mashiba is subsequently disqualified and Sawamura is declared the new champion.
After he wins his fight against Mashiba, he refused to accept the belt, and instead rode away without his trainer's agreement, on his motorcycle. However, due to the massive head damage he suffered during the fight, he accidentally rides straight into oncoming traffic. His injuries became irrecoverable and had to retire from active service as a professional boxer forever.
A large scar on the face is left behind in the aftereffect of a traffic accident, bolts and wires embedded by surgery have not been removed yet. He continued driving the motorcycle even after the accident and he continued being a construction worker and now a trainer.
Sawamura's sociopathic rants and behavior are shown to have subsided. He sports a series of facial scars, as well as a calmer personality and a keen eye for boxing.He helped as a guide to Sendo who visited Nagoya on a journey of dojo, and also went to watch the OPBF Unification match with Sendo. He even reunited with Ippo, the first champion he faced in Itagaki's match and even enjoyed a long conversation with Ippo and Sendou during Miyata Ichirō's match against Randy Boy Jr. and seems to have a sense of humor, albeit a sarcastic one. He also holds Miyata's father in high regard, calling him a genius second in the fight against Randy Boy Junior, in which he never praised someone like that before.
|14||WIN||11-3-0||1996-4-19||Mashiba Ryō||Tokyo, Japan||8(10), 1:35||DQ||
Won Japanese Junior Lightweight Title despite being knocked out of the ring
|13||WIN||10-3-0||1996||Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||?(10)||KO||Won 4th Places Junior Light Weight|
|12||LOSS||10-3-0||1995-06-15||Makunouchi Ippo||Tokyo, Japan||8(10), 1:35||KO||
"DRAGON SLAYER" 5th Title Defence
|Unknown||Tokyo, Japan||?(6)||DQ||Loss by Disqualify, Lost Rookie of the year Championship match|
|?||WIN||?-1-0||1994||Shimabukuro Iwao||Osaka, Japan||4(4)||Decision||West Japan Rookie King 2nd round Finals|
|?||LOSS||?-1-0||1993||Unknown||Osaka, Japan||?(4)||DQ||Loss by Disqualify, suspended for 1 year|
Sawamura carries a menacing appearance. He is tall for a featherweight, with a lean but toned build and spiky, unkempt dark-colored hair. His eyebrows are thin and slanted upward at the outsides, with eyes almost always half-closed in a look that can be interpreted as boredom or distaste. His eyes' color is sometimes light brown, sometimes reddish. His nose points straight down rather than curving outward.
After Sawamura's match against Mashiba Ryō, he now has visible scars on his face from his motorcycle accident.
Much like Mashiba Ryō, Sawamura is a dark, brooding boxer with a devastating fighting style and a tendency to foul. However, unlike Mashiba's openly aggressive personality, Sawamura possesses the attitude of a cold, calculating and oftentimes psychotic killer. Also unlike Mashiba, who fouls in desperation, Sawamura will often commit illegal moves simply out of pure malice, even when he has the upper hand in a fight. He is shown to be highly cruel and antagonistic and has openly expressed his bloodlust and desire to kill numerous times, all of these traits stemming from a harsh and disturbing childhood. Before and during his match with Makunouchi Ippo, he even goes into somewhat cannibalistic rants, desiring to tenderize Ippo so he could relive a childhood memory with his mother. Following the revelation from Sendou that Kawabe was bought up in similar harsh environments, he becomes somewhat humble and his psychopathic tendencies begin to lessen, developing a liking for hard work and a drive to be on the same level as Ippo. However, his cruelty and viciousness continue on, and is shown again in his match against Mashiba, which turned out to be a match full of fouls and illegality. Post-retirement however, he seems to have mellowed out. Though he remains cold and cynical, his more aggressive and vicious behavior seems to have faded away.
Boxing Style and Technique
First and foremost Sawamura was a gifted counter-puncher, his sense for counter-punching is even greater than Miyata's, as he has a very good eyesight. It was said that his counters may even surpass that of Miyata's in all of Japan and Takamura recognized his ability as a "undoubtedly a natural talent".
The difference between Sawamura and Miyata's counter-punching is that Sawamura hits his opponent before or after they have thrown a punch, purely to punish them, rather than during their punch, which Miyata does to use the opponent's momentum against them. As a result, Sawamura's counters have been called "dark/evil" while Miyata's are considered "light/good". Sawamura has fast and heavy jabs which are nicknamed the bullet and his most powerful shot is a Right Straight nicknamed the flash. Because of his rough childhood, Sawamura is rugged and is not above committing fouls, despite his great strength and sense for boxing.
More of a hindrance than anything else is the fact that Sawamura has a tendency to commit fouls due to his sadistic personality. In fact, his tendency to foul cost him his boxing career, as Mashiba brutalized him in retort to this behavior, despite the former actually outclassing the latter during the match. Also because of his blood-lust, he will actually not go for a knock out punch until he feels like it which, while still a positive in terms of points, still means that the opponent has a chance to come back, as was the case when fighting Ippo.
- The character for Ryuu / Ryū (龍) in his name means "Dragon", creating his nickname the Owari Dragon (尾張の龍, Owari no Ryū).
- His boxing stance strongly resembles a Muay Thai stance. This may not be a coincidence, as it is shown that Sawamura knows other forms of martial arts when he street brawls with a teenage Sendou Takeshi. His tendency to hit his opponents illegally with his knee is also good evidence of this, as the knee strike is one of the 8 fundamental techniques in Muay Thai.
- After Sawamura lost to Ippo in the JBC Featherweight title match, it only took him only 10 months to heal from his injures received (listed in Round 502), "3 broken ribs, 4 lost teeth, and a fracture in his left eye that requires immediate surgery and extend hospital stay..." before his next JBC title match to Mashiba as a Jr Featherweight.
- Though not directly stated, Sawamura's boxing style is strikingly similar to now retired legendary professional boxer Kostya Tszyu, in particular his bullet jab and thunderbolt in addition to the fact he punched very hard and fast for an out-boxer. This is somewhat Ironic as despite the in ring similarity they are both polar opposites in personality. Although not officially said anything yet from the author if he's another inspiration.
- According to the author, Sawamura's fighting style was based on real life retired professional boxer Ike Quartey.
- Origin of his gym's name and his surname are taken from the real life fishing shop "Karil" which fishermen Sawamura Yukihiro and Sakamura Jim had.
- The origin of the name of his techniques, "Bullet" comes from the soft lure "Barrett" designed by the same Sawamura Yukihiro, as also "Thunderbolt" also a soft lure "Senko" that was in fashion at the time.