I knew this show was going to be good in advance, but oh mans. Just watched the first two episodes. It's a standard shonen fighting formula applied to boxing. However, there's just something about it that has that extreme energy all the time. There are those moments in Initial D or Hokuto no Ken that are all "oh shit son." In just the first two episodes of Hajime no Ippo there have been at least four or five of them. If it keeps up this pace it will be epic and amazing. If it starts to slow down to DBZ levels when there's actual boxing matches later on, then it will be a sad wasted potential.
Unfortunately, the very best part of the manga hasn't even been animated yet.
The difference between the series and other shonen fighting series is twofold:
1) Hajime no Ippo shows that character growth in full detail. Some might even say it is too much of the minutiae, but that's how it makes its bread and butter.
2) More importantly is that unlike other fighting shows (Bleach, Naruto, One Piece), Hajime no Ippo has seasons and eventually ends at a point, still leaves open space for the continuation. It also gave itself a lot of leeway and stuff to animate before it was eventually animated. This allows for the series to be planned out and pack in a lot of chapters of the manga, without the fear of catching up and running out of stuff to animate. The series also doesn't start to implement filler, or crawl on an annoyingly slow pace like those other shows do.
Episodes of the One Piece anime have come to creep down to about a chapter and a half per anime episode, which is very slow, but at least in chapters of One Piece there is always something happening. In Bleach it is even worse and it's absolutely unbearable. HnI on the other hand has eaten pretty much exactly 400 chapters of the manga with 102 episodes of serialized anime, a 90 minute movie and a 60 minute OVA, so approximately 110 episodes of anime converted. That clocks in a little under 4 chapters of the manga per episode which is incredibly fast for a shonen fighting series. And that's why that show works!
BTW, correct viewing order is Season 1, Movie, OVA, Season 2, if you're going all the way.
The manga has never been licensed in the U.S. (or germany for that matter) and I'm utterly perplexed by that fact. The entire series has however been scanlated and you can everything up to chapter 918 (!) on this here website which I used to read it. The manga is up to chapter 934 now, which I'm sure will be added later, though they're also around the internet somewhere for sure. The series is insanely long, but I definitely worth the time to read. If you watch all of the anime, you don't have to read the firs 399 chatpers of it at all, since the anime sticks very, very closely to the manga.
I would imagine though, that if I read a lot more sports manga it would start to get just as repetitive as fighting manga.
Oh, it's also a little weird how much they praise Mike Tyson in the beginning chapters, considering what happened to him.
As for the health hazards of Boxing, Ippo often ends up in a hospital after a particularly long fight so it's hardly not mentioned. As for chronic conditions like Concussion syndrome or detached retinas, they are talked about a bit later on in the manga, but yeah, they aren't overly concerned with it.
Ippo, as well as other series that constantly praise it (e.g. Bakuman), has really made me want to read or watch Ashita no Joe. Unfortunately, it's basically available nowhere. I believe the chronic health hazards are thematic touched upon a bit more in it.