Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Even after a cross-country flight, Andre Berto was still throwing combinations.
After hesitatingly claiming a place among the welterweight elite using the word "young" as a qualifier, the powerful 25-year-old Floridian replied to a follow-up FitzHitz query with an unmistakable view of where he truly fits in.
"Yes, I think I am the best welterweight out there," said Berto, who defended his WBC share of the 147-pound title for the first time with a wide points win over Steve Forbes on Saturday night in suburban Los Angeles.
"I believe it, and I know that in due time I'll be able to prove to everyone else that I'm No. 1."
Flicking jab. Straight right hand. I'm the best.
Mssrs. Margarito, Cotto and Williams...deal with it.
"I think I have the total package when you combine speed, power, agility and the ability to adjust to any sort of style from the opposition," he said. "I'm the first of the new breed of fighter in this weight class and I'm eager to make big fights with the rest of the big names out there."
A convincing winner over Miki Rodriguez to win the Mayweather-vacated crown in June, Berto improved to 23-0 in a four-year career with verdicts of 118-109, 118-109 and 116-111 against Forbes - who got the shot as a reward for a game effort against Oscar De La Hoya in May.
He admitted toting nerves into the ring against the 31-year-old veteran, a former world champion at 130 pounds who'd resurrected his career with a role in "The Contender" series and was seen as a tricky foil for a foe with one- third his professional experience.
And make no mistake, trying to leave the ring with the green belt was pressure, too.
"It was mainly a fight to get me over the hump and establish myself," he said. "Being a young champion, it's important to get out there and have a fight and get rid of the butterflies. Now I feel like I've done that. I got in there with a seasoned vet and I had a dominating performance.
Andre Berto defended his WBC share of the 147-pound title with a win over Steve Forbes.
"I wanted to go for the knockout and I feel like I probably could have done more, but his style made me want to sit back more and be smart. It was more like a chess match than any fight I've had. I knew I couldn't just go to work, because he'd make me pay for any mistakes I'd make."
Berto's upbringing and relationship with his father, Dieuseul, was the source of a lengthy pre-fight feature story on the HBO broadcast, giving the premium cable audience its first extended look into the former Haitian Olympian's compelling back story.
The Berto-Forbes fight was a TV semifinal to the Shane Mosley-Ricardo Mayorga main event.
"I knew they were going to show the story and it was exciting," Berto said. "I remember growing up and watching great fighters on HBO and learning about them, so it was kind of something that certified me as having arrived on an elite level. I wanted to share everything with the fans."
The next chapter is scheduled for December.
Now back home in Winter Haven, Berto said he'd take the next several days off from gym work, perhaps getting back into a running routine by the end of the week and then sitting down with promoter Lou DiBella sometime next week to determine the next course of action.
Former WBA champion Luis Collazo is now the WBC's No. 1 contender and Berto's mandatory challenger, but the Queens, N.Y. native suffered a cut in an undercard bout against Russell Jordan Saturday and his status for a bout by the end of the year is unclear.
Spokesman Ed Rosa said Wednesday that Collazo would return to the ring in January.
Cotto is the WBC's No. 2 contender, but is rumored on the verge of a rematch with Margarito for the WBA belt. Elsewhere, No. 3 contender Jackson Osei Bonsu of Belgium lost his European championship to Rafal Jackiewicz on Sept. 14.
No. 4 contender Jesus Soto Karass is the division's NABF champion and last fought in July, while former WBC belt-holder Carlos Baldomir is ranked fifth and returned to welterweight 10 months ago after dropping a decision to Vernon Forrest for the vacant WBC crown at 154.
DiBella was quoted on Saturday's broadcast saying he wasn't yet ready to put Berto in against the likes of Margarito, Williams or Cotto. But predictably, Berto claimed Monday that the statement referred more to maintaining an unbeaten asset rather than thinking the fighter wasn't up to it.
"I'm on their level, there's no question, but he's my promoter and he's looking out for my best interests in terms of the business end of things," he said. "We're going to take our time and when things are ready to go, I'll get those guys and get my due. It'll happen. I know it."
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Throw in Chevy Chase and Christie Brinkley and call it "Golden Boy Vacation."
The Statue of Liberty was the starting point Wednesday for the multi-city imagery fest to talk up promoter/fighter/mogul Oscar De La Hoya's imminent "Dream Match" with wildly popular albeit minimally threatening pound-for-pound elitist Manny Pacquiao on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas.
The two men and their assembled flocks crossed -- or was it parted? -- the waters of New York Harbor for a breathless midday party to kick things off, before heading out of town to continue the tour at other symbolically large and significant sites throughout the country.
Ladies and gentlemen, the gospel according to Roy Walley, errr...Richard Schaefer:
"From here, we are going to Chicago to the Sears Tower, the tallest building in the United States," the Golden Boy CEO said. "From Sears Tower to the Space Center Houston, both places many more dreams have been fulfilled. From Houston we continue on to San Antonio at the Alamo, where people fought for their dreams of freedom and independence.
"Then we are going to go to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a bridge which is connecting people, just like these two fighters will on Dec. 6. Then we are going to end up in East Los Angeles and it is where dreams are made for Oscar De La Hoya."
Out of respect for Clark Griswold, I'll step outside before I wretch.
Absent from the Gotham love-in was any prolonged mention of De La Hoya's myriad pre-retirement challenges at 147-154 pounds -- Margarito, Williams, Cotto, etc. -- whom he's sidestepped while instead talking up the peril of facing a one-time flyweight menace who's fought just once above 130.
And all while simultaneous taking the "he dissed me" angle against former trainer Freddie Roach, who was on hand in New York to re-deliver the "Can he still pull the trigger?" line that created the register-ringing David vs. Goliath matchup in the first place.
"When I read reports from Freddie Roach and Manny Pacquiao, it is an instant threat. I feel challenged. Every top athlete looks for that challenge to motivate them," De La Hoya said. "I need this event to get into the mountains and isolate myself for three months.
"It is a huge challenge for me. I have to prove to myself that I can still do this."
* * * * * *
This week's title capsules:
IBF middleweight title -- Bamberg, Germany
Arthur Abraham (champion) vs. Raul Marquez (No. 2 challenger)
Abraham (27-0, 22 KO): Eighth title defense; five straight wins by KO
Marquez (41-3-1, 29 KO): Pro since 1992; IBF champion at 154 pounds in 1997
FitzHitz says: Abraham KO 10
WBO super bantamweight title -- Hato Rey, Puerto Rico
Juan Manuel Lopez (champion) vs. Cesar Figueroa (No. 13 challenger)
Lopez (22-0, 20 KO): First title defense; 10 straight wins by KO
Figueroa (30-6-2, 22 KO): Five losses in last 11 fights, four by KO; first career title try
FitzHitz says: Lopez KO 6
Last week's record: 3-1
Overall picks record: 24-8
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides "In The Ring" commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to 'The Drive with Dave Smith' on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.