Vasiliy Lomachenko focused on Jamaine Ortiz but heart remains in Ukraine

Vasiliy Lomachenko’s intention is to reclaim his position as the top 135-pounder, first by defeating Jamaine Ortiz on Saturday (ESPN+) in New York City and then by doing the same against undisputed champion Devin Haney.

There is more to the Ortiz fight than a chance to take a step forward, however. Lomachenko has Ukraine in mind as he prepares for his first fight in more than 10 months.

The former pound-for-pound king’s country has been at war with the invading Russian army since February, which is the reason he passed up a chance to face then-champion George Kambosos Jr., who instead lost to Haney in June.

“For me, it was an easy decision because there was a war in my country,” said Lomachenko, referring to his decision to not face Kambosos. “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.”

Lomachenko (16-2, 11 KOs) has regained some of the momentum he lost when he was upset by Teofimo Lopez in October 2020, a setback that cost him his titles and reputation as one of the two or three best boxers. The southpaw had surgery to repair an injured right shoulder days after the fight.

Upon his return, he stopped Masayoshi Nakatani in nine rounds in June of last year and outpointed Richard Commey in December.

A victory over Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs) could lead directly to a shot at Haney, who has expressed interest in defending his four major belts against the now-34-year-old two-time Olympic champion.

Lomachenko said he’s ready.

“I’m focused on my job,” he said. “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.”

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Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie