Williston Native Overcomes Challenges In Boxing Ring, Business & Life

Williston - Mike Palmer isn't afraid of getting knocked down in life or boxing. It's getting back up that's important.

Palmer, 66, began his illustrious career in the oilfield and boxing ring after graduating from Williston High School in 1975.

"I just remember, for whatever reason, I was infatuated with the oilfield and pursued it," said Palmer.

He started his journey in the family business, but eventually branched out on his own, starting Petroleum Services 20 years ago.

The business, which initially encompassed re-tipping drilling bits and hot shotting, expanded into various facets of the oilfield industry.

Palmer proudly shared, "The smartest thing I ever did, as far as the business is concerned, is putting a cross in Petroleum Services." Despite initial reservations about potential offense, he recognized the symbolism and connection to a higher power, stating, "Without help from above, this place wouldn't exist."

What started as a solo venture has evolved into a thriving enterprise with a current staff of 35. Petroleum Services specializes in hotshots, trucking, float equipment, drilling bit rentals and sales.

"In the beginning, I was the best truck driver we had, because I was the only one," he humorously notes.

His wife, Sonia, is an integral part of the team while his two grown daughters reside in Minneapolis.

Beyond the oilfields and business meetings, Palmer's interests extend to a pheasant farm, shooting range, boxing, CrossFit, and playing the piano. As he navigates the complexities of life, including head injuries and a misguided youth, Palmer embraces activities like piano lessons, viewing them as preventative measures against conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's.

"When I was 21, Jack and Bruce Wegley started a boxing club here in town, and I jumped on that," said Palmer. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol deterred him from a potentially promising career. He returned to the ring after getting sober at the age of 27 and was ranked as high as 9th in the U.S. among amateurs. While he made a lot of memories and earned a lot of trophies, there was only one piece of hardware that he treasured.

"I had over 100 amateur fights and I won a few of them, and you get a trophy every time you win one. I threw them all away. I only kept the one that I got from the Williston Boxing Club, and it said, 'To Mike Palmer - A true champion because he never quit.' That's the only one that ever meant anything to me."

One of Palmer's fondest memories of boxing was when his old sparring partner, Virgil Hill, invited him to be on Virgil's farewell fight card. During the fight, Palmer, 57, was dropped twice and got back on his feet, but the referee stopped the fight. Afterwards, boxing legend Evander Holyfield asked Palmer "Why he was still fighting when it gets to a point in a fighter's career when 'you can't see them coming'," reflected Palmer. Despite the loss, the fight did get Palmer into the Guinness Book of World Records at that time as the oldest active professional boxer.

Palmer's story is not just one of business success but of personal triumph and resilience. As he continues to juggle business responsibilities, sobriety, and personal pursuits, he leaves behind a legacy that reflects the spirit of Williston – a spirit defined by hard work, determination, and an unwavering faith in the Lord.

"I want to be ready for the closing bell. It is going to ring, and I want to have that scorecard in my favor," he said.

In the words of Muhammad Ali, a mantra that resonates with Palmer's journey: "Inside of a ring, or out, ain't nothing wrong with going down. It's staying down that's wrong." Mike Palmer, a true testament to the indomitable spirit of the Williston community.


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