Welterweight Errol Spence Jr., a 2012 U.S. Olympian, and middleweight Dominic Wade are two of America's brightest boxing prospects and they are both stepping up the level of their opposition on Friday (Showtime, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT) when they appear on a "ShoBox: The New Generation" card at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Spence (12-0, 10 KOs), 24, of Dallas, in his second scheduled 10-round fight, will take on Ronald Cruz (20-3, 15 KOs), 27, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the main event and Wade (15-0, 11 KOs), 24, of Washington, will be in his first scheduled 10-rounder against Nick Brinson (16-1-2, 6 KOs), 26, of New York, in the opener.
The telecast was originally slated to be a tripleheader with 2012 U.S. Olympian Marcus Browne in a light heavyweight scrap with former world title challenger Yusaf Mack, which would also have been a step-up for Browne, but Golden Boy Promotions announced on Wednesday that the fight has been canceled because Mack "failed a blood examination." No other details were disclosed.
With Mack out, Browne (10-0, 7 KOs) will face late substitute Donta Woods (8-2, 7 KOs), who has lost his last two. Showtime is not going to show the replacement fight, only highlights, according to the network.
Many regard Spence, a southpaw, as the best pro prospect off the 2012 U.S. Olympic team. He is facing the experienced Cruz, who is coming off a competitive decision loss to former titleholder Kermit Cintron on March 15. His other defeats are decisions to solid pros Ray Narh and Antoine Smith.
So Spence is not only facing a better grade of opponent than he has so far as a pro, he is also probably going to have to go deeper into the fight than he did for his first scheduled 10-rounder on April 18, when he scored a first-round knockout win against Raymond Charles. Still, Spence is very confident.
"This is a 10-rounder, so I'm just doing a lot more rounds of sparring now, like 10 or 12 rounds," Spence said. "I think Ronald Cruz is a good, durable boxer. He comes forward with his hands up, tries to counter a little bit. But I fight guys like that all the time. I spar guys like that all the time.
"I won't have to look for him because he's going to be right there in front of me. I'll just counter off his shots and look for openings."
Cruz, despite 23 professional fights, will be facing a southpaw for the first time.
"I actually don't mind sparring with them," Cruz said. "I've got a good trainer that has shown me all the tricks to beat a southpaw, so it's no big deal. I actually like it better. Not only my right hand, but my left hook works better on a southpaw.
"He's young, he's obviously hungry and he's on his way to being a world champion. I just feel they took this fight at the wrong time. It's too soon, too early for him."
Wade is a tremendous puncher, who is starting to get into a more regular fighting schedule after missing all of 2012 and fighting only twice in 2013, in part because he spent some time incarcerated. He will be facing easily the best opponent of his career in Brinson.
"I think he has a wild style, but I can get him," Wade said. "I don't think too highly of him. He just throws those little punches in bunches, but they are all wild. I plan on keeping it short and simple.
"I've never fought anybody that fights like him, but I've been sparring guys that do the same crazy stuff and I have it down pat. I can bang and box. Mainly, I'm going to pressure you and I'm going to come. I'm going to give the people want they want to see. I keep coming."
Brinson defeated Wade in the 2008 National Golden Gloves and scored an upset decision on "ShoBox" when he won a wide 10-round unanimous decision against Jorge Melendez.
"I think Dominic is a really good fighter," Brinson said. "I think he's very talented. He has fast hands, throws a lot of combinations and has a great amateur background. But there are a lot of things he doesn't do that I do well. He's the favored fighter and I don't want to take anything from him because I want all the credit when I beat him."