"Gatti's getting a little boxing lesson here in round one." —Jim Lampley
Max Kellerman was about a decade away from joining the HBO broadcast team, but his voice was present in the arena as Rodriguez entered the ring to Max and his brother Sam's rap song "Rumble Young Man Rumble." Wearing yellow trunks with black trim, the rat-tailed Rodriguez heard a smattering of boos, but they were quickly drowned out by the opening strains of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." Gatti, wearing white trimmed with blue, jogged to the ring at a brisk pace, and his handlers did their best to keep up.
Gatti, who made a then-career-best $65,000 purse for the title win against Patterson, was about to bank $180,000 for this one, but there was already talk of an even bigger payday for a Patterson rematch in the fall. And it didn't take long for Patterson to make an imprint on Gatti-Rodriguez—not because Gatti got caught looking ahead, but because of the damage the ex-champ's fists had done to him three months prior. Only 35 seconds into the fight, after some standard circling and jabbing, Rodriguez landed his first right hand, and Gatti's left cheekbone began swelling immediately. The challenger kept jabbing and dropping in right hands over the top, and with a minute to go in the round, Gatti was pawing at the eye that gave him so many problems late in the bout with Patterson.
"It became apparent immediately that we brought him back too soon after the Patterson fight," Lynch admits. "For his eye to swell up that quickly, in the first round, from not a hard-punching guy—we couldn't believe it."
Gatti fired off a trademark wild left hook late in the round, but it missed and Rodriguez countered with a flush jab. "Gatti's getting a little boxing lesson here in round one," HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley declared. It was a downright dominant frame for Rodriguez, who looked exceedingly comfortable as he landed 30 of 78 punches to just 16 of 61 for Gatti. In the corner, Joe Souza, brought in to replace Percy Richardson in the wake of the near-disastrous swelling against Patterson, started working for his paycheck immediately, busting out the Enswell, a glob of Vaseline, and a Q-tip.