Vasiliy Lomachenko unanimously won over Jamaine Ortiz at the Madison Square Garden Theater in New York.
The former world champion from Ukraine won by scorecards 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111 for the trio of judges. But those talismans don’t tell the story of a close-knit war.
Lomachenko returned to the sport after leaving the grand title reunification earlier this year when he returned to his homeland when Russia invaded Ukraine to join the Territorial Defense forces.
Ortiz was his first game back after leaving Ukraine and returning to coaching. Americans are eight years younger, taller with the advantage of reach. He put those dimensions to use with dynamic energy in the first round.
Ortiz hit hard shots from long range and was busy enough to keep southern Ukraine afloat. From the moment the dark bruise in the first round became evident under Lomachenko’s right eye.
In the first rounds, Lomachenko found it difficult to set his own rhythm. Ortiz threw him out with great intensity and punched him hard. The Ukrainians sped up their work in response. As the game progressed, he began firing shots straight into Ortiz’s head, creating quick crosses to the left that led.
Ortiz uses very sharp and agile feet. The concentrated attacks forced Lomachenko to fall back.
The Ukrainian player certainly finished the last two rounds strongly. He lunged forward with his forefoot, linked punches and kicks, and fought fiercely to the end.
“I’m happy, I’m very happy to be back in the ring and make this great performance,” Lomachenko said afterwards.
“He’s a tough fighter, he’s a good fighter.”
Lomachenko dug deep to pass the competition. “You know what motivated me — four belts,” he declared.
The four-belt holder Lomachenko desired, undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney was in the ring.
He has not been able to confirm a defense against Lomachenko, but has opened the door for negotiations. “Hopefully we can carry on,” Haney said.
“I’ll be ready,” Lomachenko promised.
On the yellow card of Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez, a two-time Olympic gold medalist like Lomachenko, continues his professional development.
The featherweight position was forced to stop in the ninth round of the competition with Jose Matias Romero.
American heavyweight Richard Torrez, who won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, won the fourth set, overwhelming Ahmed Hefny quickly in three rounds.
Duke Ragan, another Olympic silver medalist, overcame Luis Lebron, winning their eighth round, 77-75, 78-74 and 79-73.
Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of Muhammad Ali, won his underdog match. He swapped with Billy Wagner but delivered hits powerful enough to secure a unanimous decision victory, 59-55 and 58-56 twice.