Andre Berto, who lost his piece of the welterweight title on a decision to Victor Ortiz in a fight-of-the-year candidate in April, rebounded in his first fight since to win another 147-pound belt when he stopped Jan Zaveck in the fifth round at the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino in Biloxi, Miss., on Saturday night.
Berto and Zaveck waged a hard-hitting action fight with both men landing flush shots, but Zaveck's face did not hold up. He suffered cuts around both eyes and his right eye was also badly swollen in the fifth round before his corner decided to stop the fight after the round while Zaveck screamed for them to let him continue.
"I wanted to come out and make a statement," Berto told HBO. "I wanted to come out and say I didn't go nowhere."
Slovenia's Zaveck, the only titleholder in his nation's history, was fighting in the United States for the first time and making his fourth defense of the belt he won in December 2009 in his only previous fight outside Europe, a third-round stoppage of Isaac Hlatshwayo in his native South Africa.
Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) said he hoped to face Ortiz in a rematch of their four-knockdown fight -- two apiece for both -- though before that Ortiz has his first defense to make against heavy favorite Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Sept. 17.
"I was stuck in a cage the last few months," Berto told HBO. "I'm focused. I'm ready. I'm hungry. Victor Ortiz, we definitely want to do it again."
Zaveck (31-2, 18 KOs) was doing well in the competitive fight until his skin gave out on him.
"I was saving energy for the second half of the fight," Zaveck told HBO. "If this injury hadn't happened, it would have been a very good match."
Also on the card, 2008 U.S. Olympian Gary Russell Jr. (18-0, 10 KOs) cruised to a lopsided decision against Mexico's Leonilo Miranda (32-3, 30 KOs) in an eight-round featherweight bout. Russell, who tattooed Miranda with fast punches throughout the fight, won 80-72 on two scorecards and 79-73 on the third.
In another undercard fight, welterweight contender Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs), a former junior welterweight titlist from Miami, rolled to a 10-round unanimous decision against the Dominican Republic's Yoryi Estrella (10-6-2, 7 KOs), winning 100-89, 100-89 and 98-91. Bailey is due to receive the first shot at Berto as the mandatory challenger.