Former three-weight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and undefeated upstart Jamaine Ortiz renewed acquaintances Thursday in New York City. The one-time sparring partners will clash in the 12-round lightweight main event Saturday evening at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. This fight could propel the winner to a shot at undisputed champion Devin “The Dream” Haney.
Lomachenko (16-2, 11 KOs) returns after serving a stint in a territorial defense battalion in his native Ukraine, a decision that delayed his quest for undisputed glory. Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs) authored a career-best victory over former world champion Jamel Herring in May.
The 10-round featherweight co-features sees Cuban two-time Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez (10-1, 6 KOs) attempt to move closer to a title shot against late substitute Jose Matias Romero (26-2, 9 KOs).
Undercard action includes middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh (6-0, 5 KOs) and a quartet of U.S. Olympians from the Tokyo Games: silver medalists Duke Ragan (7-0, 1 KO) and Richard Torrez Jr. (3-0, 3 KOs), Tiger Johnson (5-0, 4 KOs), and Troy Isley (7-0, 4 KOs).
At the press conference, this is what Loma and Ortiz had to say:
“I feel great. I feel good. I can’t wait to come back Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. I think it’s a special place for me. I’ve had a lot of fights there. So, it’s a lucky place for me.”
“For me, it was an easy decision [to not take the George Kambosos Jr. fight] because there was a war in my country. There was a war in my hometown. I needed to stay with my family and with our people and defend our country. You don’t think about boxing. You don’t think about your future. You just think about saving your life and saving your family. That’s it.”
“I just wanted to bring a bit of sports attention to our country. And Saturday, which is Sunday morning in Ukraine, I want the people to change their mind towards good emotions.”
“Sparring [against Ortiz] is different from competition because our conditioning is not at 100 percent, so Saturday night will be a very interesting fight. I’m focused on my job. I’m focused on my boxing. You can’t stop thinking about your country. It’s always on your mind. But now I’m focused, and I need to be focused because I’m an athlete. After the fight, I’ll go back to Ukraine and support my country.”
“This fight means everything to me. This is something I’ve manifested into my life, eventually fighting Lomachenko. And the time has come here at the ‘Mecca of Boxing,’ Madison Square Garden. God has delivered everything I’ve asked for.”
“I learned a lot of things about myself in the Jamel Herring fight, as I do in every fight. I try to make improvements. I go back to the basics and fundamentals and try to master those skills. Saturday night you’re going to see the best Jamaine Ortiz.”
“I think the opponent in front of you brings out the type of fighter you are. I think Lomachenko is going to bring out the best Jamaine Ortiz. The fighter that everybody around me knows. You’re going to see the real ‘Technician’ on Saturday night.”