The co-feature would be a lightweight bout pitting Isaac “Pitbull” Cruz (22-2-1, 15 KO) against faded veteran Yuriorkis Gamboa (30-4, 18 KO), while the other bout in the mix is functionally a WBA welterweight eliminator between Radzhab Butaev (14-0, 11 KO) and Eimantas Stanionis (13-0, 9 KO).
Cruz, 23, turned a lot of heads when he was very competitive in a decision loss to Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a Showtime PPV main event in December, and reportedly fielded a strong offer to face Ryan Garcia next. Cruz is sticking with the PBC course, which is probably a smart idea, as he has potential to become a main eventer if he can keep winning; being a Mexican fighter who had such a strong effort against Davis sets him up to possibly be a drawing card.
Gamboa, 40, is years past his best days, with only a second round stoppage win over fellow faded vet Rocky Martinez in 2019 looking much at all like the Gamboa of old in his recent years. His career never really recovered after he left Top Rank in a mess a decade ago. He’s lost two straight to Tank Davis and Devin Haney, who are both top-level fighters, to be fair, and Cruz is plenty hittable and much closer to Gamboa’s natural size, because Gamboa is not a natural lightweight. There is a bit of sleeper potential here, but I’d warn against expecting this to be competitive the same way we did back in 2019 when he was set up to lose to Tank and people got themselves way too excited about the Martinez result.
The more competitive matchup is the other one. The 28-year-old Butaev has won two straight since his no-contest (originally a decision loss) to Alexander Besputin in 2019, and last time out beat Jamal James in a really good fight on a Showtime card in October. Stanionis, 27, last fought in August, going to a no-contest with veteran Luis Collazo, a fight that ended on a cut due to a clash of heads. He’d beat Thomas Dulorme in April 2021 in his prior bout.
Originally, the WBA had rejected Ugas’ request to fight Spence in a three-belt unification, and ordered him to face Stanionis, with their prior idea being that James would defend his secondary “world” title against Butaev, Ugas would defend the actually recognized “super world” title against Stanionis, and then the winners of those fights would meet.
Instead, the WBA were convinced to change their minds, with Stanionis willing to step aside and take the fight with Butaev, allowing Spence-Ugas to happen. The Butaev-Stanionis winner should be in line to face the Spence-Ugas winner, but it is boxing and in particular it is the WBA, and you never really know until it’s actually a done deal.