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 the fighters 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.”
“Well, it’s not a secret that Madison Square Garden is a mythical arena for boxing. But what actually brings out the best of me is the ring, not the arena.”
“I said that ‘the train is coming and it won’t be derailed’ because I want to fight for a world title. That’s what we hope for. After this fight, we’re expecting to fight for a world title.”
Jose Matias Romero
“This was an opportunity that was given to me. I plan on taking advantage of it. It’s a pleasure to be on this stage. And I look forward to this fight. I like to do my talking in the ring, but I’ve come very well prepared, thanks to my team. We had a great camp. But I think they are underestimating me.”
“Thank God, I have a great training team. I stay training. I never stop training. I have also had experience fighting in the United States before, so this is nothing new. The opportunity was there, and thank God it happened. And on top of that, it’s happening at Madison Square Garden, so I’m very happy.”
Richard Torrez Jr.
“Being a pro has been amazing. I come from a town where there are more cows than people. So, to be at a place like Madison Square Garden is incredible. It’s incredible to be able to have my team here as well. All these guys are Olympians. There’s nothing like it.”
Nico Ali Walsh
“From the very start, I knew who I was. I think people are starting to give me my own name. So, it’s not about me finding my own name. It’s about people accepting the fact that I knew who I was from the start. I got into boxing, and I know why I got into boxing. It’s just important to pay homage to my grandfather, but I’m doing my own thing with this.”
“Life as a pro has been good. I’m just really excited to be on a card with my Olympic teammates. I had a real good camp with Nico. We’re going to put on a really good performance. I don’t really look for the knockout. I just can’t control my power sometimes, so it is what it is.”
“It’s an honor to be able to fight on a card with my fellow Olympians. The only time we ever fought together was on the USA team. It is a great feeling to do it professionally and go up the ranks together.”
“I’ve always wanted to be with Top Rank. They’ve produced a lot of legends. I’m blessed to say that I can be one of the legends in the making. My goal is to focus on boxing. I’m not really too worried about the trolls and all that. If you’ve got trolls and haters, you’re obviously doing something right.”
Saturday, October 29
ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT)
Vasiliy Lomachenko vs. Jamaine Ortiz, 12 rounds, NABF Lightweight Title
Robeisy Ramirez vs. Jose Matias Romero, 10 rounds, featherweight
ESPN+ (6:15 p.m. ET/3:15 p.m. PT)
Richard Torrez Jr. vs. Ahmed Hefny, 6 rounds, heavyweight
Duke Ragan vs. Luis Lebron, 8 rounds, featherweight
Nico Ali Walsh vs. Billy Wagner, 6 rounds, middleweight
Tiger Johnson vs. Esteban Garcia, 6 rounds, junior welterweight
Troy Isley vs. Quincy Lavallais, 8 rounds, middleweight
Abdullah Mason vs. Angel Barrera, 6 rounds, lightweight
Haven Brady Jr. vs. Eric Mondragon, 8 rounds, junior lightweight