"What we're seeing is the pure spirit and skill of terrific athletes." —Larry Merchant
Through five rounds, Gatti had inched ahead by one point on one judge's scorecard, but Rodriguez still led by three on the other two cards. You had to figure, though, that the scorecards wouldn't matter. HBO's resident wordsmith Merchant made certain to get in a big-picture tribute to what he was witnessing before it was too late: "Folks, when you see fights like the ones we've had on [Boxing After Dark], it redeems all the bad stuff you ever hear about boxing. What we're seeing is the pure spirit and skill of terrific athletes."
Rodriguez's spirit, however, was draining. Gatti plowed forward to open round six while the challenger barely threw punches. Gatti landed a wide left to the temple, then a left to the body, and Rodriguez pumped out a few jabs but an increasingly confident Gatti slipped them. Standing forehead-to-forehead, Rodriguez made a last stand, but Gatti got in the last word of their exchange with painful punches downstairs.
With just over a minute to go in the round, a brutal left to the body had Rodriguez in visible pain. A few seconds later, both gladiators threw left hooks at the same time, but Gatti's got there first and got there with maximum impact, sending Rodriguez down on his back. He could barely roll onto his right side before Kelly reached the count of 10 at 2:16 of the round. The comeback was complete. "I know I have the heart and I have what [it takes] to be champion," Gatti said in the ring afterward. "I proved it tonight."
Rodriguez's response was mixed. He offered some excuses—all perfectly valid. "In one of the rounds, my hand got hurt, and I just couldn't keep throwing my right hand. I think it's fractured, because I can't even close my hand." Rodriguez continued, "He hit me below the belt at least six times, and it was only once that he got one point taken away from him." But when the excuses were done, the praise for his opponent followed. "He's a true champ. I could not believe the way this guy came back, and he will go very, very far."