Harimau (ハリマオ lit. Harimao), a wild man from Malaysia, is one of Yabuki Joe's opponents in Ashita no Joe. He is a force to be reckoned with in the ring, as his unorthodox boxing mixed with his strength and agility make a hard opponent to fight. He is also known to be quite the cheater, usually biting and headbutting his opponent when frustrated.
"Feral Child" is an apt description for Harimau. He was born deep in the jungles of Malaysia to a remote tribe and can only speak their language. By 12 or 13, he was already able to defeat any animal in the jungle and by 16 he was already the strongest member of his tribe. An English reporter came to his tribe to write an article about it, and when he saw Harimau, he decided to see if he could teach the tribal warrior how to box. He became Harimau's manager and soon enough Harimau began doing official matches in the city. Harimau was revealed to have an astonishing talent for boxing and won match after match in a KO streak.
Harimau has a brutish, animalistic appearance and stands at 163 centimeters. He has dark brown skin, mid-length black hair that reaches his shoulders, and has disproportately long arms in comparison to his legs.
In his introduction at the airport, he wears a green plaid suit, a purple and white ties, and black dress shoes. When Harimau is with his tribe, he only wears a loincloth. When he is in the weigh-in room for his match with Yabuki Joe, he is wearing a leopard-printed robe.
Harimau has a wild personality. He is unable to communicate with anyone is Japan and speaks in unintelligible grunts, which contributes to his inhumane attitude. The only thing to make Harimau act more normal is to feed him chocolate bars. Harimau seems to have some pride in his abilities, as he smirks and chuckles before giving his secret attacks. He is very unfamiliar with modern commodities, as he is even disrupted and becomes aggressive by bright camera flashes.
Harimau may have a more placated personality when he is with his tribe because one of Yoko's recruiters states that Harimau was only aggressive after the plane to Japan landed. However, opposed to this, Harimau punched his manager and hospitalized him before he returned to Japan because he didn't like how controlling his manager was. This implies he may not be as placated as Yoko's recruiters implied before the plane fight.
Shiraki Yoko recruits Harimau to attempt to bring back Yabuki Joe's wild side, because of Harimau's animalistic nature. Harimau arrives in Japan, and is unable to communicate with anyone because his manager is being hospitalized in Malaysia after Harimau punched him, so Yoko's recruiters consistently feed him chocolate to calm him down. Harimau meets Yabuki Joe in the airport (Joe being there to fly to fight Jose Mendoza, and senses his boxing gloves in Joe's luggage, and subsequently steals Joe's luggage. This results in Harimau and Joe having a skirmish, so Joe can retrieve his items. Harimau is given a chocolate bar to calm down and returns the items to Joe. Yoko asks Joe to take a photo with Harimau, which he declines. However, Harimau approaches Joe to give him a handshake, which is actually a feign to start a fight with Joe. This results in Harimau knocking Joe down in one punch and breaking a tooth. Joe decides to not fight Harimau back.
After this, Harimau has a public training session at the Shiraki Boxing Club. The airport incident made Harimau an overnight sensation in Japan, so many reporters show up to write on the Malaysian boxer. His public training session is against the 5th ranked featherweight boxer in the Japanese league, Tanabe Isamu. Harimau refuses to wear headgear when training, which Yoko says displays his wild nature. Harimau starts the sparring session by doing a no-guard stance, similar to Joe in his younger years. Harimau does not attempt to block any of Tanabe's punches and shows his durability by remaining unfazed. In the next round, Harimau starts blocking Tanabe's punches and does offense. He leaps above Tanabe and attacks by punching Tanabe's head from above, which shocks the spectators, except a calm Joe who is revealed to be in the room. This attack gives Tanabe a concussion and the fight was concluded in less than two minutes. Harimau has no one else to spar against, so Joe offers to be his partner. Harimau spots Joe and is immediately aggressive and wants to begin fighting him, so much so that Shiraki gym employees have to hold him back. Joe is able to convince Yoko to let him spar against Harimau, saying how it will repair his reputation after he was prudent at the airport.
Joe and Harimau begin their spar, as soon as Joe hops in the ring, Harimau begins a very aggressive, surprise attack. Joe reciprocates the aggressiveness, but is caught off guard by Harimau doing a jump attack. Harimau gets the upper hand and does consecutive hits against Joe. When Joe finally gets some attacks in, Harimau pretends to be knocked out. When Joe walks away to leave, Harimau reveals he was feigning his knock out and trips Joe over. Joe and Harimau continue fighting, but the bell rings and the spar ends. Joe decides to settle things with Harimau and set up an official title match with him after Harimau's match with Takigawa Shuuhei.
Harimau's match with Takigawa, the 6th ranked fighter in the pacific, results in a full Kouraken stadium because of his popularity. Takigawa and his manager are wary by Harimau's aggressive, animalistic nature. Takigawa even states that being in the ring with Harimau is like being thrown into an animal's cage at a zoo. When the match begins, Harimau is immediately on the offensive, while Takigawa is consistently on the defensive. Harimau's swift attacks cause Takigawa to trip from running away from him so much. After this, Takigawa is able to hit two consecutive downs against Harimau and is also able to dodge Harimau's aerial jumping punch. Takigawa punches Harimau against the ropes, which goes according to Harimau's plan. Harimau reveals his second special move, his ability to jump on the ropes. Harimau pushes himself forward on the rope and gains acceleration, which results in deadly punches Takigawa receives. After these punches, Takigawa is KO'd and Harimau wins the match in under 3 minutes into the first round, gaining the title of the 6th ranked bantamweight fighter in the OPBF. Harimau punches Takigawa's frantic manager and is given more chocolate to calm down. Joe tells Takigawa's manager that he will avenge Takigawa and fight Harimau, and thus Joe's match against Harimau is made official.
Harimau and Joe have their 12-round Pacific Title Defense match at the Tokyo Stadium and meet again in the weigh-in room. Harimau looks calm until Joe enters the room, where he immediately lunges to attack Joe, but is held back by the offer of a chocolate bar and soon after successfully passes his weigh-in at 117.25 pounds. Before the match begins, Yoko proposes that Harimau is holding back another secret attack, giving the analogy:
"Give a child several chocolate bars of different sizes. It's quite likely he'd save the biggest one for last. In a similar way, Harimau has kept his greatest weapon a secret. For he was determined to beat Yabuki Joe, ever since their encounter at the airport. . .!" (Shiraki Yoko about Harimau)
Joe and Harimau's match finally begins in a packed stadium, being predicted to be "The oddest matchup in the history of boxing in Japan." In the audience is Goromaki Gondou and his gang, who Joe fought against in preparation for Joe to have this unorthodox duel against Harimau. Harimau attempts to attack Joe before the bell starts, but is held back. At this point, Carlos Rivera attempts to enter the Tokyo Stadium to watch Joe vs. Harimau, but is kicked out. When the bell rings, Harimau begins on the offense, but Joe successfully dodges the punches and afterwards successfully punches Harimau. Joe punches Harimau to the ropes to pull out Harimau's rope-jumping trick and succeeds. Harimau starts jumping on the ropes and Joe keeps ducking lower and lower to dodge. Joe then runs to the other side of the ring and pushes against the ropes and makes the shock reverberate to the other side, which disrupts Harimau's trick and Harimau falls out of the ring. This is counted as a slip and Harimau steps back onto the ring. Harimau is pissed off that Joe found a counter to his rope-jumping trick and goes to an offense, but Joe dodges these and attacks back. Everyone is surprised how smoothly Joe is able to deal with Harimau's unorthodox tricks, including Tange Danpei, Joe's manager. Before Joe can get more hits in, Harimau crouches down and starts emanating a menacing aura, which makes Joe run away and the bell rings. Joe comments in his corner that he thinks Harimau was about to do a deadly move before the round ended, which is what made him break out into cold sweat. Joe states his wild instincts are coming back by detecting Harimau's deadliness.
The second round begins and begins with Joe avoiding Harimau, still fearful over the unknown deadly move he is anticipating. The audience is angry and tells Joe to start attacking similarly to his aggressive beatdown in round one. Harimau continues chasing Joe with a menacing smirk on his face, which leads to Joe slipping down while running. After the slipdown, Harimau is able to corner Joe and attack him with the antipated deadly attack. He does a complicated maneuver that is impossible to see from its swiftness, which knocks Joe down. Joe is barely able to stand back up and is dizzy, which allows Harimau to get in multiple punches and have Joe get a rope-down. The fight starts up again and Joe is able to give a few punches to Harimau, but panics when Harimau indicates he is going to do the complex, unknown maneuver again, however, the round ends before Harimau is able to attack. The fight is at 5-2 at that point, in favor of Harimau. In between the rounds, the moderators rewind the fight to analyze the complex maneuver and it is revealed to be a combination of back-flips and corkscrew and uppercuts, which is dubbed the unique "Double Corkscrew Back-flip Uppercut." The moderators state that it looks more like a gymnastics move than a boxing move.
The third round begins and Harimau rushes to Joe's corner and they exchange blows. However, Joe receives a down when Harimau performs the Double Corkscrew Back-flip uppercut a second time. Joe's side suggest to throw in the towel, but they don't after seeing Joe's smile and seeing how much of a blast he is having. Harimau is about to do his special move a third time, but Joe jumps even higher than Harimau and punches Harimau in the head, resulting Harimau in having a down and being sprawled on the mat, bloodied. Harimau is able to get back up easily, but is terrified and does not want to fight after he realizes there is a counter for his most powerful attack. Harimau clutches onto the referee and hides behind him to avoid Joe, but the referee rips him off and tells him he has to fight. Harimau throws the referee at Joe and runs in the opposite direction. The moderators comment that Harimau has no regard for the audience or throwing a flashy show because of his animalistic nature, and that he has no concepts for shame from performing poorly in front of a crowd. The moderators also comment that Harimau has found a foe more wild than he is, despite Joe being from modern civilization. The round ends before either can exchange any more blows and they are tied at 5-5. During the break it is revealed how Joe countered Harimau's special attack by jumping high enough to dodge the first uppercut, and then punching Harimau's face with all his weight when Harimau is coming back up to perform his second back-flip.
Harimau is sitting completely dejected in his corner before the fourth round starts. Gondou comes down to Joe to tell him to be wary of Harimau in the next round. Joe understands and says it is because Harimau isn't a boxer, he is an animal in the ring who doesn't need to follow rules, and will do anything to survive a fight.
"An animal might run when it's scared, but when it's pressed as far back as it can go, you never know what it might do. He'll do anything to survive. . ." (Yabuki Joe about Harimau)
Joe says that this round is the one where Harimau will swoop to do anything for his survival, which makes it the round most worth fighting. The bell rings to begin the round, but Harimau remains crouched in his corner, too scared to begin to fight. The Shiraki Gym workers who are Harimau's seconds push him out onto the ring, but he won't budge and hugs the ropes. The referee begins the countdown to end the match since Harimau won't comply to start the round. The audience isn't pleased at all and starts getting mad at Harimau, and commenting how it is similar to Joe running from Harimau in the second round. Harimau is shoved into the middle of the ring and Joe smirks at him, while Harimau stares up desperately. Harimau then starts running away from Joe, while Joe chases after him.
Joe corners Harimau in the ring, which causes Harimau to scream and finally bring out the pressed-back animal Joe was anticipating. Harimau attacks, but Joe counters with punches and Harimau suffers a down. When Harimau stands up, he starts charging at Joe before his gloves are even checked by the referee. Joe is excited by the sudden attack but gets the upperhand and successfully lands punches. Harimau then decides to start breaking rules and headbutts, elbows, and kicks Joe. Joe falls down and Harimau starts jumping and stomping on Joe's face and the referee calls out that it's a penalty and runs over to stop Harimau, while the audience boos at Harimau's lack of sportsmanship. The referee then informs Harimau if he does any more penalties, he will be disqualified. Joe tells the referee he doesn't want to win by Harimau being disqualified, and that the only proper way to win is by KO. Joe and Harimau resume their match, Harimau throws a punch but Joe dodges and gives a successful counter. Harimau jumps up and does another illegal attack, by slamming his knees from above into Joe's face and wrapping his arms around Joe that leads to a very gruesome scene where Harimau gnaws at Joe's shoulder with excessive blood coming from where Harimau bites. The referee says it is a foul and Harimau is disqualified, but Joe isn't pleased by this and pushes the referee out of the way and says he wants to give the finishing blow to Harimau. Joe swiftly walks up to Harimau and gives multiple damaging blows, while Harimau offers no resistance. Joe gives a final punch to Harimau's face and Harimau is knocked out of the ring by flying through two of the ropes and falls onto the floor at the audience's feet. Harimau is declared to be knocked out and loses the match.
•Harimau is an unorthodox boxer, as his wild side is able to make him come up with creative moves when he boxes. He has three special moves in particular:
¤The first case of this is his special jump attack, where he jumps above the opponent and punches their head from above.
¤The second case of this is his ability to be backed up against and hop on the ropes and use them as a means of propulsion, jumping from rope to rope in the ring and using the acceleration to land devastating punches.
¤The third case of this is his "Double Corkscrew Back-flip Uppercut," where he drove Joe all the way back to the ropes, crouched extremely low, jumped, begins spinning backwards in the air while adding a corkscrew, and then giving two uppercuts consectively while in an upside-down position.
•Harimau has excellent agility that is compared to a tiger's. He displays this through his prowess in jumping.
•Within his tribe, Harimau has been the strongest warrior since he was 16 years old. He was also capable of defeating any animal in the jungle by the time he was 12-13. These skills display his great athletic ability, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination.
•Unnamed English Reporter: Harimau's trainer who taught him to box while he was studying his tribe. He must have some sort of understanding of Harimau's native language, because he was able to teach him boxing.
•Yabuki Joe: After Harimau met Joe in the airport, he wanted to fight the other man desperately. Every time he saw Joe even outside the ring, he tried to attack him and even stole his boxing gloves.
Notes & Trivia
•Despite not having his tribe named in the manga or anime, some aspects of his tribe are similar to the real-life Malaysian Semai.
•Volume 18, pages 26-235
•Volume 19, pages 1-115