Twenty five years ago, a kid named John Wayne Parr first set his eyes on a kickboxing ring. Most kids would go out and play football or cricket after the school day was over. They’d sit there right up until the final bell rang, itching to get out and set the world on fire.
Parr wasn’t like most kids. He was starting to engage in a different sport. It was a choice that would change his life in a way that not even he could begin to imagine at such an early age.
Parr’s first fight wasn’t really that successful. He was just some little teenage kid, but fighting for the first time turned him into something so much bigger.
“I’ve had 121 fights and I can tell you about every single one of them, one by one,” Parr told Combat Press. “The first time, I was very nervous. I was 14 years old and I was in Year 10 at school. It was a Thursday, I was so nervous, and when I got to the venue I almost wanted to back out, but then my trainer said, ‘We’re here now. There’s no turning back now.’ I hadn’t seen my opponent until I got into the ring, and my opponent had a six pack and teenage-man moustache and muscles on muscles, and I just thought, ‘Oh, no, I’m dead.’ We had a really close fight, and I lost on split points.
“I remember going to school the next day and I had a little bit of a black eye and a sore leg, and people asked, ‘How’d you get a black eye?’ And I just said, ‘I fought in a kickboxing fight last night,’ and I remember that everybody’s attitude towards me changed all of a sudden. I was one of the cool kids now. Everyone’s perception of me changed overnight. It was a really cool feeling and I wanna keep riding that even to this day. I’m 39 and I still wanna try and win everybody’s approval to be one of the cool guys, I guess.”
Perhaps that early desire for acceptance is the key behind Parr’s continued success inside the ring. He has managed to win numerous titles in the sport, but in his eyes there is still more for him to achieve. His upcoming fight at Lion Fight 25 has helped him realize what is left for him in the sport that his life revolves around.
“I’ve never been on a billboard before,” Parr said. “It’s one of those things I can tick off my bucket list of things to achieve. It was pretty exciting. They announced the fight on AXS, which is a pretty major thing. It’s a massive opportunity for me and it’s a chance to really build my profile, and if I get the win and get the belt, then that’s just going to open up so many more doors for me.
“There’s no plateau. It just feels like I’m constantly climbing Mount Everest to try and build my profile so that I can leave a legitimate legacy. I wanna be remembered as one of the greatest ever and the only way to achieve that is to keep fighting the top guys. No easy shortcuts; no picking easy ones. If I can keep fighting the big guys and keep fighting on the big shows,then hopefully that’s gonna cement my legacy.”
There is a lot of build-up around his bout, which takes place on Oct. 23. Parr is set to square off with Cosmo Alexandre for the third time. The bout is a rubber match for the pair, with Parr coming out victorious in their first outing by way of unanimous decision and Alexandre defeating Parr in their rematch almost two years later.
“It’s just a fight,” Parr admitted. “We’ve fought twice before. The first one I won and then, since then, Cosmo has gone on and had a lot more experience. The second fight was [in] an eight-man tournament, and I got injured in my first fight and then, in the second fight, he took advantage of my injury with my sore shin. This fight, I’m coming into it at 100 percent and I really wanna put on a really good fight and to make a statement and show the American crowd that I’m representing Australia with pride.”
Most of Parr’s recent fights have taken place on home soil. The Australian last competed internationally in 2010. Making his way back to America, Parr sees a great opportunity to continue to establish himself as one of the very best.
“I haven’t fought in America since 2002,” Parr said. “I fought in Vegas and Albuquerque for two wins, but back then it wasn’t as big as what it is now. I’m really excited to get over there. This fight is going to be telecast live on American cable and there’s a lot of excitement about the fight. I think it’s a real opportunity for me to make a name for myself over there and to be regarded as one of the top strikers.”
When Parr lost the WKA middleweight championship to Toby Smith in June 2014 and sustained a pretty bad injury in the process, the veteran was ready to call it a day. When he was fully recovered, though, he bounced back in a big way by returning to knock out Daniel Kerr. Parr was back and better than ever.
“It wasn’t really a retirement this time,” Parr admitted. “I had two broken orbital bones in my face, so it was more about waiting for my face to come good again before I could get back into the swing of things. Now that I’m fully recovered, I had one fight in May for a win on my Caged Muay Thai show and now I’ve got this fight coming up on October 23. After that, I’ll fight on my own show again in November and then I’ve possibly got a fight lined up over in London. It’s all happening again. I’m back in the mix.”
Parr was in a pretty bad way following the fight with Smith. As he lay in a hospital bed, he was thinking hard about what he was doing with his life. Stitches covered his face. Yet, now he still continues to fight on. A broken face was never going to stop him. His love for fighting prevailed, just like it had for his entire career.
“I was stuck in hospital for four nights,” Parr said. “Laying there in the hospital bed with those two broken orbital bones and on morphine, I was just really hating life. There was a lot of contemplating going on then. But since I’ve been back in the gym and I’m teaching every day and going to the fight almost every weekend, just the thought of not being able to compete anymore is far more painful than the actual injury itself. My life is fighting, and without it I’m not sure what I’m gonna do. This is me.”
Parr’s Oct. 23 bout is another chance for the kickboxer to show just what he can do inside the ring. When he steps into the ring and fights for the Lion Muay Thai title, he’ll have yet another opportunity to seek out the approval that he yearns for. The 14-year-old boy who had his first fight all those years ago has come a long way. He has traveled across the globe doing what he loves.
“I’ve fought in Japan 16 times, I’ve won world titles in Thailand and I feel like I’ve been doing this country by country,” Parr said. “America is the last frontier, so to go over there and have a solid win and to win the belt, I feel like that’s gonna be a big thing for me. If I could do it in Thailand, I can definitely do it in America. I won two world titles in Bangkok against the Thais in their own sport. After fighting the Thais, I’m not afraid of any man on the planet at my weight.
“I’ve been lucky enough to fight all over the world. Like I’ve said, I’ve had 121 fights now, so for me it’s just like going to work. I’m excited and I’ve trained hard, and I’ve really promised the fans that I’m gonna give them the best fight possible. I don’t wanna go over there and just be a statistic. I wanna go over there and show people that I’m one of the top guys. And even though I’m 39, I don’t believe I’m done yet. I believe the best is still yet to come.”