Surviving the streets as a young boy helped mold Israel Padilla into the person that he is today. The young man from Modesto is currently an up and coming boxer who trains at The Boxing Development Center in Oakdale.
Padilla grew up in what he described as a rough Modesto neighborhood.
“It was not the ideal place to grow up. It was not very safe. Lots of drug addicts and homeless. It was a very busy street,” said Padilla.
His first fight came in middle school when he was getting bullied.
“It took me a while to stand up for myself. In middle school I got in my first fight with a kid who grew up near my neighborhood. He tried to call all of us, my group out. So I stood up and agreed to fight the kid after school,” Padilla explained. “A lot of the kids from the school showed up and I got beat up, because I did not know how to fight. But from that moment on I did not back down from bullies or a fight. I must have been in a dozen fights if not more during my education.”
In high school he tried to avoid conflict without fighting. He attended Thomas Downey High School his sophomore year and joined the track team.
“It kept me out of trouble and made me focus,” he said.
It was during his junior year when he met up with Coach Leo Pagaliagan and was introduced to the sport of boxing.
“Coach Leo showed me the way. I met up with Coach Leo in a gym in Modesto. He was working at that gym and began to show me the ropes. I wanted to learn the sport, and I was not getting any attention at that gym and it was not Leo’s gym but Leo was working there,” noted Padilla. “So Leo and Kenny Lopez, Sr. helped train me.”
While at the gym Padilla earned the respect of his two main coaches, he said, but not the respect of others.
“The lead trainer would call me out and I have sparred against the top talent. He was trying to set me up for failure but Coach Leo called me one night and gave me encouragement. Eventually I left that gym and followed Coach Leo to Riverbank and trained there for a little bit,” Padilla said.
He then put his boxing career on hold while attending Modesto Junior College, where he majored in Human Services.
“My mom is a huge influence in my life. She is such a giving person and has helped so many people in Modesto and it was very inspiring to me. So I also got involved in helping out my community,” he said.
Padilla returned to the ring and to training and now has 10 fights under his belt. After losing in his debut, Padilla won his second fight via first round TKO.
“It was funny because that guy (my opponent) was trying to intimidate me from across the ring. He was talking trash, and was very loud. So when the fight started he rushed me. I just covered up and when I got my opening I caught him on the side of the face and he dropped,” explained Padilla. “It was a strange feeling. I was hoping it would be like that all the time. But it’s not.”
Padilla holds a 6-4-0 record and his last fight was in the spring. In August he has a fight scheduled. Details on the fight are yet to be determined but until then he will stay focused and continuing working in the ring.