"Gatti is in real trouble unless he can do something dramatic." —Larry Merchant
If the opening round was a three-minute-long "Oops" for Gatti, the round that followed was a three-minute-long "Oh shit." He came out bending deep at the knees, utilizing head movement, and pumping the jab. He was trying to box intelligently. But Rodriguez's jab was finding a home anyway, and a minute into the round, Gatti's right eye was as messy as his left. "I think Gatti is in real trouble unless he can do something dramatic, guys," declared color analyst Larry Merchant. They were all about to find out what real trouble truly looked like.
With a minute and 15 seconds to go, Gatti backed Rodriguez toward the ropes and unfurled another one of those wide hooks. Rodriguez countered with a right hand and then a perfect left hook of his own to the jaw, dropping Gatti on the seat of his trunks.
"Before the fight, he had purchased a BMW sports car," Lynch recounts, "and I kept saying, 'Arturo, just wait till after the fight,' but he bought it anyway. He always had to have something to keep him busy, you know? So they asked him after the fight, 'What was the first thing that went through your mind when you got dropped?' He said, 'There goes my BMW, and Pat Lynch just had a heart attack.' He was almost right about the second part."
Gatti popped up at referee Wayne Kelly's count of two, started bouncing on his toes, and took a deep breath. "Getting off the floor kind of woke me up," he said afterward. "I got scared when I went down. I didn't even know I was down until I looked around. I said, 'Oh my god, I'm gonna lose the fight.'"
"Thunder" stormed right back but Rodriguez opened up with combinations, landing flush with both hands. The Dominican kept dropping in those rights over Gatti's left, and when the titleholder got close, Rodriguez tied him up. Gatti's aggressive fighting spirit was on display as he marched forward, winging punches, but he couldn't get much done. Just before the bell, Gatti loaded up on a wild left, but the straight, sharp right hand of Rodriguez got to its destination first. Everything that could possibly go wrong for Gatti that round had. "While the boys and girls from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey were performing their death-defying deeds a few floors above," Jack Obermayer wrote in The Ring, "Gatti was walking his own tightrope in a one-ring circus."
Souza went for the left eye when Gatti sat down, but someone else in the corner yelled, "The other eye!" The cutman switched to Gatti's right side, saying, "I got it, I got it." With a mouthful of cotton swabs, doing a respectable Don Corleone impression, Souza spoke directly to Gatti: "Listen to me, listen to me. You ain't got no time. You gotta get out there and do it, all right?"