NEW YORK (AP)Vasiliy Lomachenko returned from military service in Ukraine and beat Jamaine Ortiz by unanimous decision Saturday night to restart his quest to get another shot at the lightweight titles.

Lomachenko got stronger as the fight went on after a slow start that perhaps could have been due to his ring rust.

Lomachenko returned to his country after it was invaded by Russia in February and joined a territorial defense battalion, patrolling the streets to enforce a 10 p.m. curfew.

Now he’s back and hoping for a shot at Devin Haney, the undisputed lightweight champion who was sitting ringside and joined him in the ring after the fight.

”Look, I’m ready,” Lomachenko said. ”I’m ready for any option.”

Lomachenko (17-2) won by scores of 117-111, 116-112 and 115-113 – a couple of the cards too wide for Teofimo Lopez, the former 135-pound champion who beat Lomachenko in October 2020.

”Welcome to the business of boxing,” he said as he walked by press row at Madison Square Garden.

The Associated Press scored it 115-113 for Lomachenko.

The area around Lomachenko’s right eye was already swollen in the second round as he tried to get inside against his longer-armed opponent, but the two-time Olympic gold medalist eventually found his footing.

Ortiz (16-1-1) lost for the first time, appearing to wear down in the later rounds under Lomachenko’s relentless pressure.

Lomachenko said he was given breaks to train during his service, so he didn’t expect to have any ring rust.

The bigger problem was Ortiz’s 3 1/2-inch reach advantage.

He used it to start well, pushing Lomachenko back with good shots to the body. Even by the time Lomachenko landed some good straight lefts in the fifth, the confidence coming from around the Worcester, Massachusetts product was clear.

”Let’s go! You’re bigger than this dude!” came a shout from his corner.

But Lomachenko is used to that and he eventually started landing much cleaner shots, knocking Ortiz off balance a few times in a strong finish.

Lomachenko has already owned titles in three weight classes, but he calls holding all four major belts at lightweight his dream. He was on his way there earlier this year, with a bout being planned against George Kambosos Jr., who had taken the titles by upsetting Lopez.

But when the war broke out, Lomachenko returned home from Greece and told his handlers he would be unavailable for that fight. Haney got it instead and beat Kambosos, then won again easily two weeks ago in the rematch.

Now he could be next for Lomachenko.

”The fight to make in the lightweight division is Haney versus Lomachenko, and we will do everything we can to make the undisputed championship showdown that all fight fans want to see.” promoter Bob Arum said. ”They are the world’s premier lightweights, and it would be a fantastic battle.”

But if it happens, Lomachenko would probably have to be better than he was in the Hulu Theater.

”I think it wasn’t the best performance, but I know if me and Loma were to fight, we’d see a better version on the night,” Haney said. ”Congratulations, and hopefully we can get it on.”

Earlier, Nico Ali Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, improved to 7-0 with a six-round unanimous decision victory over Billy Wagner. It was Ali Walsh’s second bout at Madison Square Garden, where Ali fought eight times, winning all of them except the ”Fight of the Century,” the 1971 first fight of his trilogy with Joe Frazier.

Heavyweight Richard Torrez Jr. and featherweight Duke Ragan, U.S. Olympic silver medalists last year in Tokyo, both stayed unbeaten in their young careers.

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