The Australian combat sport scene was stunned recently with the news that Muay Thai and kickboxing legend John Wayne Parr had signed to face former WBA Super-middleweight Champion Anthony Mundine under boxing rules, with the bout scheduled to take place on the 29th of November.
There is little in it in terms of age with Mundine at 44 just a year older than Parr and both fighters have built up huge reputations in Australia in their respective sports. Parr started out in Martial arts over 30 years ago and has been more or less active ever since, aside from a brief retirement back in 2012.
“I started out in taekwondo in 1987 as an 11 year old. Technically I’ve been 32 years in the sport and I’ve loved every second of it,” he said.
It gets harder every year you get older to compete in the fighting arts, but Parr still manages to motivate and push himself to train hard and deal with making weight for fights, with one eye on the past and another firmly on the future.
“What motivates me is the thought of being poor again. After living in a Thai camp for years and sleeping on a wooden floor, you dream of one day making it to the big time. I sacrificed blood, sweat and tears when I was younger and even now, so hopefully I might be able to live in comfort when I’m older.”
The Mundine fight was impossible to turn down for Parr for several reasons, but ultimately it is the opportunity to make his future a little more secure.
“Every fighter dreams of the money fight. Anthony is a huge name here in Australia and has helped pay local fighters serious money, fighting on pay per view and filling out stadiums. I’m a former Australian boxing champion with a record of 13 pro fights, 10 wins, 10 knockouts.”
Parr hasn’t boxed competitive since 2003 but it’s not like he’s spent the last 16 years sitting on the sofa,
“Boxing is such a big part of Muay Thai that I’m always working on my boxing skills and power. When the opportunity was offered to me it was like a dream come true. Not only is it a chance to test my skills against a former world champion but it’s a chance to get the media’s attention so I can introduce myself to the Australian public and tell my story. As I’m getting older this is the perfect chance to hopefully pay off my house, so when I retire I can say ‘I bought my house with my fighting prize money.'”
Having competed in boxing Parr knows how difficult it can be to switch between sports. He enjoyed the experience but struggled to combine careers in different disciplines,
“I went really well. My first two boxing fights were both on a week’s notice for extra pocket money before flying back to Bangkok. I won both by knockout but still focused on Thailand and Muay Thai. In 2001 I decided I’d retire from Muay Thai and concentrate purely on boxing and my three losses were all over 12 rounds on points in championship fight.”
Parr’s losses all came at the hands of elite level boxers. But he feels he made a mistake in trying to compete in boxing and Muay Thai simultaneously,
“I made the mistake in my last four boxing fights of jumping between boxing and Muay Thai. My last boxing fight I fought Sakio Bika, who went on the win world titles. First three rounds everything went to plan but as I started to get tired, muscle memory kicked in and my weight started to transfer from front leg to back leg into my Muay Thai stance. I lasted the distance, but if I had just been boxing I could have given Sakio a much better fight.”
Parr is still contracted to Bellator promotions, but after fighting at Rizin 18 on Sunday will have three months to focus fully on his return to the boxing ring,
“I have a fight coming up 18th of August in Nagoya, Japan on a Rizin promotion against Danilo Zanolini. After that I’ll have one more fight on my contract with Bellator.”
Parr has fought a veritable who’s who in the Muay Thai and kickboxing world in his career, winning ten world titles. However there is one honour that has always eluded him,
“I’m very happy where I am. When I was younger I wanted to fight everyone. After being on the circuit for so many years I somehow went from the hunter, to the hunted with everyone now wanting to fight me. The only belt to get away from me was the WBC world title. I was lucky to be the first fighter in history to fight for the WBC Muay Thai World title against Yodsaenklai Fairtex who beat me on points. Then I had another chance to fight for the WBC world title against Steve Wakeling in England losing by split decision.”
Parr still juggles his fight career with running a full time gym in Australia’s Gold Coast and admits it can be hard sometimes to find time to focus on his own fight preparations. But his wife and daughter help out and he has a few prospects coming through,
“It’s tough! Especially right now with two big fights coming up, you’re exhausted after the morning session. As soon as I’ve done my own training session I usually do three of four private sessions while my wife Angie and daughter Jazzy teach the classes. My afternoon training session is twice as hard as the morning one and straight after I go straight into teaching our night class five days a week.”
However Parr says his schedule might be hard but it is rewarding too,
“I don’t mind though, my clients are awesome and taking them through Muay Thai training is way better than a real job. I have a young fighter in Bangkok at the moment at Sangtiennoi’s gym named Lachy Ogden who has been on the Thai circuit for over 4 years now. Last year he won the IMF world title and has fought on all the big promotions and stadiums. I also have Ben Mahoney who is fighting boxing with a record of 8-0 with four KOs. Benny is super talented and very exciting prospect for Australia.”
Parr retired from the sport briefly back in June 2012 after a win over New Zealand’s Jordan Tai, but after recharging his batteries, still had the urge to compete and returned to the ring in January 2013. With his age finally catching up on him the Mundine fight could be the perfect opportunity to finish on a high both spiritually and financially and finally see him hang up the gloves,
“I said I wanted to keep fighting until the wheels fall off. Currently the wheels are very wobbly and it’s hard to keep steering but I’m going to keep going until my body says ‘no more’. I have the Rizin fight, then Mundine. I’ll check my back account after that and, unless another huge fight presents itself, it could be the perfect way to ride off into the sunset!”