Michael Padilla helps out with sparring practice at Viking Fitness. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

VALE – Three days a week, juvenile probation officer Michael Padilla takes punches from little girls in pink boxing gloves.

What started out as one-on-one training sessions between Padilla and his grandson has turned into a full-on boxing club – for girls, boys and adults – at Viking Fitness in Vale.

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Padilla is coaching the boxing club Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The club has two sessions: ages 12 and under from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., and a session for teens and adults from 5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“We’ve had a great turnout, a lot of people are interested,” Padilla said. About 15 members – roughly a third of them under age 12 – have been regulars since the club kicked off in the summer. Padilla wasn’t expecting that big a turnout in a football town such as Vale.

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The club grew out of his training sessions with his grandson Thayer Williams, who won his first amateur fight in September.

Soon, other gym members showed interest. Gym owner Edgar Esquivel, a lifelong boxing fan, also liked what Padilla was doing so he invested in a boxing ring. As Padilla puts it, one thing led to another and soon he volunteered to coach the club in exchange for access to the gym to train his grandson.

“We’re doing this for the community and to keep kids busy. Vale has a lot of sports, but the more options we have, the better,” said Esquivel, who also owns Chabelitas Taqueria in Vale.

Padilla has members start off with a lengthy warmup that builds up to more intense exercises like pushups and mountain climbers. Of course there’s some of that boxing mainstay: jump rope. Before the boxing begins, people are dripping sweat inside the ring.

“We give the best of both worlds. For those who want to take the extra step and compete, we do what we can to take them to that level. We got others who just like the workout and have no interest in the combat,” said Padilla.

A former boxer, Padilla has been training others for about 15 years. He said boxing gave him motivation as a teen. He said he’s trying to provide the same with the club.

“We emphasize clean living and hard work, but it also builds self confidence,” Padilla said.

Aleilee Allen participates in the 12 and under session at the Viking Fitness boxing club in Vale. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

Moms in particular have shown an interest in enrolling their little ones. Then there are the girls, like Aleilee Allen and Lilly Esquivel, both in the 12 and under class.

“I come to boxing because it’s really good exercise, it’s fun and it’s good self defense,” said Esquivel.

“I really like it, it’s a really fun exercise,” Allen concurred.

Padilla emphasized that the sport is not for everyone. But for those who like it, it can build character and opportunities. Although it doesn’t always work out, he tries to get teens who go through the county juvenile department into boxing.

For now Padilla said the club is growing. He hoped to secure sponsors in the future to help with equipment and members who aspire to fight professionally.

News tip? Contact reporter Yadira Lopez: yadira@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.

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