Vasiliy Lomachenko said he "will be ready" to face undisputed lightweight champion Devin Haney after marking his return to boxing with a thrilling points win over Jamaine Ortiz in New York.
The Ukrainian former world champion took the victory at Madison Square Garden Theater on all three judges' scorecards - 115-113, 116-112 and 117-111 - and while the scores might suggest a relatively comfortable night for Lomachenko, Ortiz provided a stern challenge.
Lomachenko was fighting for the first time in almost 11 months after opting to to enlist in Ukraine's Territorial Defence force following the Russian invasion, which meant forgoing an opportunity for a major title unification bout earlier this year.
Given his time away from the ring, it was perhaps little surprise that Lomachenko started the slower fighter but he got stronger as the fight wore on, winning the final six rounds on two of the judges' scorecards and taking his professional record to 17 wins and two losses.
"I'm happy, I'm happy to be back in the ring and make this great show," Lomachenko said. "He is a tough fighter, he is a good fighter."
Looking to the future, the Ukrainian added: "You know what motivated me? Four belts."
Haney, the fighter in possession of those belts, was ringside and said he was open to defending his titles against Lomachenko.
"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."
Lomachenko responded by saying: "I will be ready."
His promoter, Top Rank president Bob Arum, said a fight with Haney is now the top priority.
“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,” Arum said. “They are the world’s premier lightweights, and it would be a fantastic battle.”
On the undercard, 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, US Olympic silver medalists last year in Tokyo, both stayed unbeaten in their young careers.