Anyone familiar with the combat arts knows that there is likely a gene in most fighters that causes a propensity toward battle. While this gene’s existence is not necessarily scientifically proven, there are plenty of anecdotal instances to support the idea.
In the world of professional striking, John Wayne Parr is a legend who needs no introduction. With countless title wins and nearly 150 pro bouts across Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, the 44-year-old Australian has blazed a trail that spans almost 25 years. He is a talented individual with fighting in his DNA. It’s no wonder then that his three kids are following in his footsteps.
Parr and his wife Angela, who is also a former Muay Thai champion, have three kids: an 18-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old son, and a six-year-old daughter. His oldest, Jasmine, has a well-documented career in kickboxing. Meanwhile, the younger two children also compete in combat sports.
“[They] are in jiu-jitsu,” Parr told Combat Press. “[They] both have a gold addiction. They’ve both won a few medals each, and, now, every time there is a tournament coming close, they’re like, ‘Can I do this one? Can I do this one?’ I’m like, ‘You don’t have to ask anymore. The more you compete, the more experience you get.’ Every weekend, we’re somewhere doing something with the kids.”
The Parr family is just about all the proof the world needs about that fighting gene. Mrs. Parr’s lengthy kickboxing career goes back to the late 90s, with her last fight coming in 2012. She also has a handful of boxing and MMA bouts under her belt. Mr. Parr has trained in both Australia and Thailand. He owns his own gym and even promoted his own version of Muay Thai.
Parr’s last fight took place in 2019. In August of that year, he suffered a tough split-decision loss in a kickboxing battle at RIZIN.18. A few months later, he defeated Anthony Mundine in a 10-round boxing match to send the former champion into retirement. It was shortly after that when the next stage of his career presented itself.
“The opportunity came about last year, when I took one of my fighters to compete in ONE Championship,” Parr said. “I was fortunate to meet Mr. Chatri [Sityodtong, ONE CEO], and he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse [to fight] for the organization. That was at the start of 2020 and then COVID hit Australia, so no one could leave Australia’s shores. I had a little speed bump, but everything seems to be looking good at the moment. I’m very excited to make my debut and hopefully entertain the masses so they remember who I am at the end of it.”
After an uneventful 2020, Parr is now ready to start his 2021 campaign with a Muay Thai bout against fellow kickboxing legend and former multiple-time titleholder Nieky Holzken. The pair meet at ONE on TNT III, which airs tape-delayed on TNT on Wednesday, April 21.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to be welcomed into the organization,” said Parr. “It’s like holy shit. In 2012, I started a different way of doing Muay Thai. It’s Muay Thai in a cage with MMA gloves on. We ended up doing 10 shows here in Australia. So, ONE Championship went with the same sort of idea.
“Now, here I am fighting for the biggest organization in the world, fighting my style. I think it’s brilliant. I’m really excited to get out of bed every morning and train. I really want to get this 100th win so bad.”
That 100th career kickboxing win was supposed to happen in his last outing for the Rizin Fighting Federation. However, victory eluded him in a very questionable decision.
“I thought I should have won,” Parr admitted. “That fight sucked, because I’m currently on 99 wins, and I really wanted to win in Japan. After the fight, I could have sworn the fight was mine, and then, when they raised the other gentleman’s hand, I was quite heartbroken. One hundred wins would have been so cool, but, at the same time, to save that moment for ONE Championship and to say that I beat Nieky for my 100th win would make it even more satisfying. Maybe, it was a blessing in disguise.”
While there is a slight weight difference between Parr and Holzken, it is strange that they are finally set to square off so far into their careers. Even if they wouldn’t have faced each other in title fights across different divisions, this is a superfight that is a long time coming.
“There are similarities between me and Nieky,” said Parr. “I’ve had 135 kickboxing fights, and he’s had 110, I think. I’ve had 14 pro boxing fights, and he’s had 15 pro boxing fights. He’s had 47 knockouts. I’ve had 47 knockouts. The similarities are crazy.
“I started training when he started training. So, it’s quite eerie that, 30 years later, the two students have gotten to the stage where they’re fighting each other to represent. It’s exciting, and I feel like I have a little pressure on my shoulders to continue the legacy of these two legends.”
Parr does most of his preparation at his own gym, Boonchu Muay Thai Gym in Queensland, Australia. While many fighters also have a strength-and-conditioning regimen outside of their martial-arts training, Parr has been at this long enough that he knows exactly what he needs to do.
“The hour I would spend lifting weights, I could be perfecting my jab or making my kicks harder, faster, or stronger,” he explained. “So, everything I do is purely Muay Thai.”
“I was very lucky to live in Thailand for five years,” Parr added. “As long as I can maintain my fitness and cardio, the rest is just automatic reflexes. I know my punches are strong, my kicks are strong, and my IQ is pretty good, so I’m just excited to get in there and hear the bell ring.”
Parr has had a nice, long training camp for his ONE debut against Holzken. He hasn’t wasted a single moment.
“Ten weeks is perfect,” Parr said. “Ten weeks gives me an opportunity to iron out all the bugs, study my opponent, work on game plans, and then be super fit. I feel like I am in Superman condition right now, and I’m excited to go from the first bell to the final bell as fast and as hard as I can.
“I want people to go, ‘Holy shit! This guy is real. He may be old, but he seems very aggressive.’”
Parr is excited for the opportunity ahead of him, but he has more than just this fight on the horizon. He’s approaching his 45th birthday next month, and he is always looking for what’s next in his career. He might look and fight like a spring chicken, but there is another job that recently opened up in the ONE organization that he would be happy to fill.
“Maybe Mr. Chatri can give me a job once I decide to hang them up,” Parr suggested. “Plant the seed now, so hopefully, in the future, we might see. Now, with Miesha Tate going to the UFC, there’s an opening there for a former fighter to get paid by ONE Championship. I don’t know. I’m just putting it out there into the universe, and whatever happens, happens.”
“I’ve got my gym. My gym has been very successful, so I’m very happy to keep teaching classes and everything else, but it’s not the same as walking out in front of the crowds and that buzz. You can’t bottle it. There’s no substitute for it.”
The aforementioned Tate, a former Strikeforce champion and UFC title contender, was the Vice President of ONE and lived in Singapore. However, she’s returning to competition for the UFC in July when she faces Marion Reneau. Parr sees this as an opening.
For now, Parr has bigger fish to fry. On the lead card of ONE on TNT III, he collides with another legend. It’s time to put that fighting gene to work.
“I just want to show that, even though I’m 44, I don’t feel like I’ve peaked yet,” Parr said. “I feel like I’m in my mid-20s. I’ve had hip surgery. I feel like the last few years, I’d been struggling to perform at 100 percent, but now that I’ve had hip surgery, I’m 100 percent pain-free. I really want to put on an entertaining and devastating performance to show the crowd Mr. Chatri did not make a mistake signing me up.”
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