Dorchester’s Donnie Palmer is getting back to his winning ways in the boxing ring.
The 6-foot-10 Codman Square native won a six-round decision against the smaller, but still dangerous, Tommy Washington on Dec. 18. The fight, which was streamed to boxing fans on RingTV, was on the undercard of a fight night staged at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
Palmer, who trains out of the Dorchester Boxing Club in Fields Corner, is now hoping to land a major opponent for a bout that could bring a windfall in both money and notoriety. He is positioning himself to fight super-heavyweight Taishan Dong, a 7-foot-tall Chinese ring monster who is undefeated thus far after turning pro in 2014.
Palmer bested Washington in a fight that Palmer admits was too close for comfort. The 31-year-old Army veteran’s score was boosted when he knocked down Washington late in the second round. “It’s a great win because it was a great opponent,” Palmer said this week. “He was in great shape and he was on a three-win streak. He’d beat two undefeated guys and he’d had a great amateur career,” said Palmer. “I had a knock down and that had to put the seal on it. If I didn’t knock him down it could have been a draw, or even a loss.”
Robert Diaz, whose Golden Boy Productions promoted the fight, said he has been impressed with Palmer’s professionalism. Diaz can foresee a potential Palmer-Dong matchup being a great attraction.
“[Donnie’s] still learning a lot and it was a close fight and a good fight. But I’m glad he won. I think eventually there will be a matchup with Taishan and him,” said Diaz.
“I think it could break a record. There’s never been a 6-10 versus a 7-footer. And I think it would be a very even fight because they both have capabilities and they both have some weaknesses, too.”
Palmer’s career has taken some strange twists and turns in the last year. After making a remarkable recovery from a 2014 shooting on Park Street that nearly killed him, he notched an easy knockout win last January over Houston Crayton at the Royale Nightclub. But then, without many ready opponents on hand, and with his Irish trainer, Sean Mannion, out of town, Palmer got sidetracked by another local blood sport: Boston politics. He mounted an ill-fated run for Boston City Council against District 3 incumbent Frank Baker. Palmer, who barely registered as a candidate in the first place, was trounced in November.
Worse yet, Palmer suffered his first professional setback in the ring in October when he lost in a decision to Daniel Pasciolla at Rockingham Park in New Hampshire. The decision is currently in arbitration, according to Palmer, who says the loss should be taken off his record due to irregularities in scoring the fight. If that decision is reversed, he’ll be back to a 7-0-1 record.
Within weeks of his beat-down at the ballot box, though, Palmer was back in more familiar environs – the ring. He jetted to Austria to spar with world champion heavyweight Wladimir Klitschko, who until recently was the top-ranked boxer in the world at the heavyweight class. Klitschko suffered a rare loss to British bruiser Tyson Fury on Nov. 28.
But the elite training camps were a welcome opportunity for Palmer to hone his own skills and fitness regimen. Now, back in Dorchester, he has Mannion, his favorite trainer and a former welterweight contender, back in his corner.
“I need a lot more time in the gym,” Palmer said this week. “I haven’t worked with a trainer this whole year since Sean was in Ireland. I was just going off of my own know-how and experience. I have some more structure now.”
In this most recent victory, Palmer was aided by a serious height advantage over the six-foot Washington. If he does get a match-up with Taishan Dong, it will be Palmer who’ll be looking skyward. And Dong could very well have another advantage: home ring. “It’s likely that a fight could be in China, because he’s got a huge following there,” said Palmer, who met his would-be opponent during his visit to California.
Danny Kelly, the owner of the Dorchester Boxing Club who served as one of Palmer’s corner men in his most recent bout, called his performance “spectacular. If Donnie didn’t fight like a demon, he had to pull it out and bite down. [Washington] was way better than the guy he lost to,” said Kelly, who added that Palmer will likely need to take at least a few more fights in the new year to make a bout with the Chinese giant viable.
“The likelihood is great,” said Kelly. “From [Dong’s] perspective they see him as giving Dong credibility and that he might have a good chance of beating him. It would be the biggest fight in the history of boxing, height wise.”
Palmer has another goal in mind: He needs build his fan base. “I need to get Dorchester on my side more,” he said, adding that he hopes more locals will start following him on Instagram. “Golden Boy has given me this amazing opportunity. I need them to come out and support my next few fights. [Dong] has all of China behind him. I want to be the next champion from Dorchester, like Sean Mannion. He has China. I want all of Dorchester in my corner. That’d be a fair fight.”