Wayne Parr: From Muay Thai to middleweight ranks

August 13, 2001 – By Paul Upham: Anyone who ever saw the 1989 movie “Kickboxer” starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and thought all of the training was a little over the top, should spend some time with new Australian middleweight champion “John” Wayne Parr, 8-0 (8), to get the real story.

Parr spent four years living, training and competing in Thailand, the home of Muay Thai kickboxing.

“Everything in that movie, I doubled. Where they were kicking pads at the start of the movie, that is where I won my world title in front of 120,000 people,” said Parr, who was only the third non-Thai to win an International Muay-Thai Federation world title.

“Everything in that movie I doubled it. That was my dream and I lived it, so I am pretty happy.”

Parr grew up in the suburbs of Brisbane - though he did move around a lot as his parents were horse trainers - and he found himself at 11 different schools by the time he finished Year 11 at the age of 17.

“I used to watch all the karate movies and Van Damme movies when I was young,” said Parr, who started tae kwon do at 11 years of age and then kickboxing when he was 13.

A generous sponsor allowed Parr to travel to Thailand for what he originally thought would be a short stay.

“I was 19 and I fought for the South Pacific kickboxing title. I had a really hard fight and I got dropped in the second round with leg kicks. I came back and ended up knocking the guy out in the fifth round with my hands. One of my Thai sponsors said he would send me over to Thailand to learn to do it properly,” said Parr.

“I went over for six months at first with the camp, thinking that’s all I was going to stay. But the camp called me after I returned to Australia and asked if I could come back over as I had a lot of potential. I went back again and stayed a full year. Then I came home and then they rang again and had organised a fight for me in Japan. I ended up staying for a total of four years and went to Japan a couple of times.”

A shin infection at the age of 23 saw Parr return home to Australia for good, but he will always remember fondly his time in Thailand.

“I loved it. I was in Pattaya for my first three months. Then I changed camp and went to Bangkok. Once I hit Bangkok, I was the only white person in the entire town. It was a bit of a culture shock the first year. But the second year I picked up the language and became one of them. Then I just blended in,” said Parr, who retired from kickboxing with a world title and a career record of 38-12 (20).

“When I was younger, I always had the plan of being a kickboxer. Then when I was older, I was going to take up boxing. When you are 25 in Thailand, you are considered old, so it is a good time to change over and save your legs, plus I always used my fists well,” said Parr.

Now living on the Gold Coast of Queensland, Parr is only 25 years old and knows that he is still in the early days of his boxing career.

“I’m still only learning. I’m only a baby in the boxing world after all the kickboxing. I thought it was a pretty similar sport, but now that I am doing it, in boxing there is so much to learn. I’m only at 20% of what I can do,” said Parr.

“In Muay Thai, you stand toe-to-toe and whoever is the toughest wins. In boxing, it’s whoever is the smartest wins.”

After making his boxing debut in January 1998, Parr has quickly established a reputation as a crowd-pleasing fighter who always comes to knock his opponent out.

“I like to be crowd-pleasing, plus I like getting in my opponents face. There are a few Thai fighters that I base my style on. They are walk-up fighters who press their opponents and they always make them fold,” said Parr.

“One of my main goals is to break their hearts. That is my biggest weapon. My technique is not that flash, but my mindset is to get into their heads and break their hearts half way through the fight and then I put the power on.”

Parr won the Australian middleweight title in July in an awkward scrappy fight with Andriy Khamula, who retired at the beginning of the 10th round complaining of a broken hand.

“I still need a lot of work on my defence. My fitness is fine. I could do 12 rounds easy. Khamula was so difficult because he was so unorthodox, a southpaw and a spoiler. Hopefully, fighting someone like that will that will help me in future fights,” said Parr.

“I knew I was losing on the scorecards and I was looking for the knockout, but it just wasn’t coming. But it’s an awesome feeling having the Australian belt. I’m pretty stoked with my record too, eight knockouts in eight fights.”

With a 100% knockout record, it’s no surprise that Parr’s favourite fighters are Mike Tyson, Kostya Tszyu and Shannan Taylor.

“All big bombers. Everyone likes a knockout artist. No one likes a points scorer,” he said.

The main event may be Shannan Taylor vs Julian Holland on Kieran O’Connor’s card at the Octagon at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on Friday night, but many fans will be looking forward to seeing Parr facing another hard puncher in Abdul Rasheed, with the card being televised live around the country on Fox Sports.

“I can’t wait. It’s a pretty big promotion and I’ve been training hard,” said Parr, who was originally scheduled to face WBA No.10 Kevin Kelly before he had to withdraw with a broken hand.

“It would have got my name on the map, win, lose or draw. It would have been a good experience against Kelly,” said Parr, who is looking forward to putting on a great performance to silence any critics.

“It will be good because I got a lot of flak from the last fight. Everyone was saying that I got hit a lot and was lucky to win. I want to prove to everyone that I am the next generation and will be the middleweight champion of the world. I am going to prove it to Australia first and then the world.”

Trained by Rod Waterhouse, who also guides Parr’s good friend and Australian light-heavyweight champion Paul Briggs, the former Muay Thai world champion is in no rush and wants to learn all the skills required to make it on the world scene.

“Just one fight at a time. I’m not in any hurry. I’ve only had eight fights. I want to make my name in Australia first under Rod’s guidelines. He will point me in the right direction. I will just listen to him and take one fight at a time,” said Parr.

“I am a professional fighter. This is all I do, train and fight. I also teach kickboxing after training in the afternoons, but this is my whole career. I am not going anywhere in a hurry. Wherever Paul Briggs is going, I want to be in his shadow. If he is making it in America or England, I want to be on his undercard. We want to keep it as a team. Wherever Rod and Paul go, I want to be right behind them.”

A humble man outside of the ring, Parr unveils a sadistic aggressive side in it. Lacking on the ringcraft side at this early stage, Parr more than makes up for it with enthusiasm and pure-punching power.

Many people have noticed and commented on his unusual mouthguard, which has two distinctive white fangs on it, giving Parr a real menacing appearance in the ring.

“It adds excitement and it’s like wearing a mask,” he said. “When I put the mouth guard in I change and I am a different person.”

Paul Upham
Contributing Editor
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