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Pacquiao opens Makati mansion to Towns

Manny Pacquiao and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Dominican Republic exchange pleasantries during a visit by the National Basketball Association player at the boxing legend’s Forbes Park residence late Saturday. (Winchell Campos)

When Karl-Anthony Towns came to town, his first order of business was to meet the greatest Filipino athlete of this generation: Manny Pacquiao.

A day after breaking the hearts of basketball-crazy Filipinos, the Dominican Republic superstar humbly walked into Pacquiao’s Forbes Park mansion to say hello and narrate his experience facing Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

The meeting — which is already their second — lasted for over an hour with the three-time National Basketball Association All-Star expressing admiration over Pacquiao’s braveness and ability to fight Yordenis Ugas of Cuba for 12 rounds in 2021 despite suffering calf injury.

“Me? I just couldn’t move,” said Towns, narrating how he went through therapy and rehabilitation just to recover from the Grade 3 calf strain that prompted him to miss 52 games last season for the Minnesota Timberwolves in the National Basketball Association.

He added that he had trouble playing against Filipino big men, especially 7-foot-3 Kai Sotto, so he just used his heft and speed to lead the Dominican Republic to an 87-81 victory last Friday at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.

“I could start my offense from the three-point arc and just blow by defenders,” said Towns, whose 26 points came from the free throw line after hitting only five of his 16 attempts from the field against the defense of AJ Edu and June Mar Fajardo.

Towns admitted that the Filipinos gave them a scare.

“It was really close and the game could have shifted to the Philippines’ side at any moment,” he said, adding that Gilas Pilipinas still has a slight chance of advancing in the next round if they play the way they played against them.

 “The Filipino guards were really good and shifty.”

With his charismatic boxing style and warm attitude, it is not a surprise that hotshot athletes and other celebrities were coming to see Pacquiao during the course of his boxing career.

The late Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce all came to see Pacquiao to draw inspiration while former United States President Barack Obama, socialite Paris Hilton, boxer Erik Morales and actor Mark Wahlberg treat the former senator as their friend.

During their meeting, Towns brought several pictures from their 2021 meeting in Hollywood and asked Pacquio to have it signed.

Pacquiao obliged and gave the 27-year-old Towns some trinkets from his Junior Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League while discussing the things they have in common.

They have more than a dozen. For instance, Chuck Anthony Cavenstany, a Filipino-American in the United States, is Towns best friend and manager, who connected him to a Team Pacquiao member in Jay-R Navarro and the rest was easy.

Pacquiao has retained the luster of his persona despite the losses he suffered, including the 2022 Presidential elections in which he finished third behind Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Leni Robredo with more than three million votes.

Towns said he has a basketball court in his house. But he doesn’t play there.

On the same note, Pacquiao doesn’t have a boxing gym in his house in General Santos City although he has a basketball court, dozens of chess sets and a few billiards tables.

“I play chess, too. I also love golf,” said the amiable Towns, who wears size 20 shoes and was cordial enough to goof around with members of Team Pacquiao when they asked him for souvenir photos.

“He scored 68 points last week (in a basketball game),” a member of Team Pacquiao blurted out, referring to his boss, the founder of the MPBL and a one-time playing coach in the Philippine Basketball Association.

Pacquiao nodded and revealed his secret to Towns.

“Whenever I train for basketball, I shoot 500 balls until I get tired,” said Pacquiao, who, like Towns, gives enough time to things he likes to excel in.

Towns just smiled. Greatness respects greatness.

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