Photos: Lomachenko defeats Ortiz, Ramirez KOs Romero

With a potential undisputed lightweight title showdown on the line, former three-weight world champion Vasiliy “Loma” Lomachenko had to dig deep. While it wasn’t the dominant performance many expected, Lomachenko rallied in the late rounds to edge Jamaine “The Technician” Ortiz (16-1-1, 8 KOs) by unanimous decision (115-113, 116-112 and 117-111) Saturday evening at Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Ortiz came out firing his jab in the opening round, as Lomachenko sustained some bruising under his right eye. Lomachenko stunned Ortiz momentarily in the third round, but the underdog hung tough and was even on two scorecards and ahead by two points on the other at the fight’s halfway mark. Two of the judges had Lomachenko sweeping the final six rounds in a tale of two fights. Lomachenko outlanded Ortiz, 125-122.

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Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs) will now look towards a potential super fight with undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney, who was seated ringside to scout his potential foe.

“I’m happy. I’m happy to come back in the ring and make this a great show,” Lomachenko said. “Thank you to my fans for the support. You know what motivated me. Four belts!

“Look, I’m ready. I’m ready for any option.”

Midway through Lomachenko’s post-fight interview, he was joined in the ring by Haney, who also welcomed the challenge.

Haney said, “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. Congratulations, and hopefully we can get it on.”

Added Top Rank chairman Bob Arum: “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. They are the world’s premier lightweights, and it would be a fantastic battle.”

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“El Tren Rolls On

Robeisy “El Tren” Ramirez (11-1, 7 KOs) wants a featherweight title shot, and he may get it soon. The two-time Olympic gold medalist steamrolled late replacement Jose Matias Romero (26-3, 9 KOs) via ninth-round TKO to retain his USBA and WBO Global belts. Ramirez had his man his trouble in the first and seventh rounds, but the Argentina native refused to relent. In the ninth, Ramirez uncorked a left hand that staggered Romero and ended the one-way carnage.

Ramirez outlanded Romero in power punches, 129-32, including a 19-3 advantage in the ninth round. He is now targeting a featherweight world title shot in early 2023.

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“We know that Matias is a fighter who is slick, who knows how to survive inside the ring, and that was his plan. I hurt him early, but then we tried to get him out early. And then, Ismael Salas, who is my strategist… he is a chess master. He’s moving the pieces in there, and finally we were able to do it properly and get him out of there,” Ramirez said. “I think the result speaks for itself. I got the stoppage, sent a message, and in the end, if {Emanuel} Navarrete is no longer the champion at 126 pounds, if he’s fighting Oscar Valdez for the championship at 130 pounds, then I got next at 126, and I want that belt.”

In undercard action:

Heavyweight: Richard Torrez Jr. (4-0, 4 KOs) TKO 3 Ahmed Hefny (13-3, 5 KOs). In the evening’s final preliminary bout, Torrez joined his Olympic teammates in the win column. After a second-round stoppage and a pair of first-round knockouts to start his pro career, Torrez saw the third round for the first time. Hefny was knocked down with a left hand in the second, and the onslaught continued in the third until referee Arthur Mercante stepped in.

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Featherweight: Duke Ragan (8-0, 1 KO) UD Luis Lebron (18-5-1, 11 KOs), Scores: 79-73, 78-74 and 77-75. U.S. Olympic silver medalist Ragan did what he does best, which is to use his well-schooled defense to offset his hard-charging foe. Lebron, the Puerto Rican power puncher, was never deterred, if not effective. The Garden crowd booed the verdict, but Cincinnati’s Ragan did more than enough to seal the victory on the judges’ cards.

Middleweight: Troy Isley (8-0, 4 KOs) UD 8 Quincy Lavallais (14-4-1, 9 KOs), Scores: 80-72 2x and 79-73. Isley passed his first eight-round test with flying colors, nearly shutting out Lavallais, a six-year pro known for his iron chin.

Junior Welterweight: Tiger Johnson (6-0, 4 KOs) UD 6 Esteban Garcia (15-2, 7 KOs), Scores: 60-54 3x. Johnson’s three-bout knockout streak ended, but the Tokyo 2020 U.S. Olympian gained much-needed experience in going the six-round distance for the first time in his career.

Middleweight: Nico Ali Walsh (7-0, 5 KOs) UD 6 Billy Wagner (5-3, 1 KO), Scores: 58-56 2x and 59-55. Ali Walsh received a lot of resistance from Montana native Wagner, who weathered an early storm and even appeared to stun the grandson of “The Greatest” at the end of the second round. Wagner could not sustain his early success, as Ali Walsh pressed forward in the final two rounds to secure the narrow victory.

Lightweight: Abdullah Mason (5-0, 4 KOs) TKO 4 Angel Barrera (4-1), :21. Southpaw sensation Mason, from Cleveland, Ohio, fought well beyond his years with a methodical and devastating beatdown of Barrera. Mason notched a pair of knockdowns in the third round, the first coming courtesy of a straight left hand. Early in the fourth, a sweeping left compelled referee Johnny Callas to wave off the fight.

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Junior Lightweight: Haven Brady Jr. (8-0, 4 KOs) UD 8 Eric Mondragon (7-1-1, 4 KOs), Scores: 79-73 2x and 78-74. In a battle of unbeatens, Brady authored the most significant win of his career, picking apart the California-born Mondragon with an assortment of jabs and uppercuts.