MANILA, Philippines – Rajon Rondo, the Boston Celtics' All-Star point guard, still remembers the first time he watched Filipino fight king Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao in action.
"I met Pacquiao a couple of years ago," Rondo related in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News Monday at the Titan basketball store. "I think he beat up (Miguel) Cotto really badly."
Rondo is referring to Pacquiao's crushing 12th round knockout victory over the Puerto Rican Cotto in 2009, which for many people solidified the Filipino's standing at the top of boxing's pound-for-pound list.
"I went back to the locker room, and I saw Cotto walking back, and then I saw Pacquiao come back and he was smiling," Rondo said. "So from that point on, I started watching his fights and following him."
Rondo, like many of his teammates in the Celtics, is a fan of Pacquiao. The admiration is mutual as Pacquiao is a well-known supporter of the Boston squad, even reportedly watching the team's Game 7 against the Miami Heat prior to his fight against Timothy Bradley last June.
"Definitely, definitely," Rondo said when asked if he was a fan of Pacquiao. "He actually autographed a couple of gloves for our entire team, so we're big fans of Pacquiao, big supporters."
Rondo said that he watches Pacquiao when he is featured on the HBO reality series "24/7" and admires the boxer's work ethic.
"It's his competitiveness. He works hard at what he does," Rondo said. "I've seen '24/7,' so I've seen the time that he puts in, and the dedication and the love and passion for his craft."
Rondo is visiting Manila for the first time to check out the local basketball scene as a prelude to the Philippine leg of Red Bull’s King of the Rock tournament, which will kick off next year.
He will conduct a skills clinic for top UAAP and NCAA players today, and watch the game between the Ateneo Blue Eagles and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws Wednesday.
Rondo will also be the guest of honor in the unveiling of a restored basketball court in Corazon de Jesus in San Juan City.