Claiming the WBC 147-pound title that Floyd Mayweather Jr. vacated with his retirement, Berto closed the show Saturday night at Memphis' FedEx Forum by stopping Miguel Rodriguez for a TKO victory at 2:13 of the seventh round.
Berto showed speed and power in both hands to dictate the fight and sent Rodriguez to the canvas twice in the seventh round.
A right uppercut came swiftly after an overhand right to knock the Mexican fighter down the first time. Moments later, Berto landed a left-right combination to the head for the second knockdown. Although Rodriguez quickly got up, Berto moved in againwith a two-fisted assault. Sensing the inevitable, referee Lawrence Cole quickly halted the bout.
Berto, who fights out of Winter Haven, Fla., lifted his record to 22-0 with his 19th knockout, while Rodriguez fell to 29-3.
The victory opened all kinds of possibilities for Berto, 24. With Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito set to fight for Cotto's belt next month and Paul Williams also laying claim to a belt, Berto said he's ready to take on any and all of them.
"I'm the new kid on the block, but I bet you every one of those guys were at home watching this fight," Berto said. "I'm making a real impact in the division. Even though I'm young, it's going to take a bad boy to take this belt away from me."
In a bout between unbeaten American heavyweights, Chris Arreola kept his record intact by dominating Chazz Witherspoon and winning on a disqualification at the end of the third round.
The bizarre ending left something to be desired, but Arreola's punishing assault was emphatic as he ran his record to 24-0 with 21 KOs.
Arreola, 27, twice knocked down Witherspoon in the third round and was on his way to a 12th consecutive knockout victory. But the disqualification came first when referee Randy Phillips ruled Witherspoon's corner had jumped in the ring prematurely after the second knockdown.
"It's a disqualification if they step up there before I rule," said Phillips, who was issuing a standing eight-count after Witherspoon hit the floor a second time just as the bell sounded.
Witherspoon, who dropped to 23-1, 15 KOs, said his mistake was trying to trade shots with Arreola.
"All respect to Chris Arreola. He fought a heckuva fight," said the Philadelphia native and cousin to former two-time heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon. "I was to supposed to be holding (after Arreola hurt him) but my pride got the best of me. That Philly part of me. It was my stupidity for fighting his type of fight."
Arreola dictated the fight, ignoring Witherspoon's stiff jab to continuously apply pressure.
"He's a big man and hit me with a couple of oh (bleep) jabs," said Arreola, a Los Angeles native. "That's when you hit somebody in the mouth and bust their grill and you've got to question whether you want to come in. But I love it. If I don't get hit, I'm not in a fight. That's how Mexicans do it and that's how boxers do it. We both came here to fight."