John Wayne Parr: an inspirational 10-time world champion Muay Thai fighter

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John Wayne Parr is a household name in the global Muay Thai community. He is an inspirational athlete, both in skills and spirit. Earning his 10 world champion titles didn’t come easy, especially in a sport where injuries are commonplace, training intensive and notoriously tough. John faces these challenges head-on. Incredibly he is just one victory away to accomplishing 100 fight wins.

John has been a fighter since he was 11 years old. He chose to go to Bangkok for professional training in the Thai national sport for five years before returning to Australia in 1999 to open his own training facility, Boonchu Muay Thai Gym.

For him, the cheers and applauses from the crowd and the fame that comes with being a kickboxing superstar from Down Under is the perfect remedy for the exhaustion and pain suffered in extensive training.

When asked to give a piece of advice for anyone aspiring  to become a fighter, he suggested “You might not get rich, but you will create memories you will be proud to tell your family and friends about.”

John recently spoke to Advance to share how far his fighting spirit can go.

How has Muay Thai changed your life?

Good question. I’ve was lucky to start training at 11 years old, so all I’ve ever known is fighting. I know when a few of my friends started getting in trouble with the law, I was too busy in the gym preparing for fights to get lead astray.

What's your most memorable fighting experience? What was your most difficult fight?

So many good memories! It's hard to pick just one. I’m very proud of everything I accomplished in Thailand being the first Australian to fight at Lumpinee stadium, fights during the King’s birthday and being the first westerner to make the front cover of Thailand’s number one selling Muay Thai magazine.

Hardest fight would have had been against Thailand’s number one fighter, Yodsanklai Fairtex, when we fought in the final of the reality TV show “Contender Asia”. I was cut twice and knocked down twice. I didn’t win but I was happy to have finished the fight on my feet giving the crowd an exciting fight to remember.

Having spent 5 years living in Thailand, how was the training experience different from Australia?

In Australia we fight for fun, as a bit of a hobby. In Thailand, Muay Thai is the national sport, and training is very serious as you not only represent your family, but you represent your camp and country. Training is between 6 to 7 hours a day, sometimes 7 days a week. It is not only physically draining but also mentally as you are expected to train harder today than you did yesterday. Winning is everything.

Who's your mentor?

My favorite fighter is Ramon Dekkers who was one of the first foreigners to go to Thailand and beat the Thais. He fought many champions winning by knockout and proved that western fighters could beat the Thai fighters. Every time I was homesick or questioned if I could do this or not, I would ask myself, “what would Ramon do?”, and that would inspire me to stay the course.

What's the worst injury you've ever had?

I was elbowed in the cheek once and it broke my eye socket in two places. After the fight I had to spend four nights in hospital with doctors going back and forth if they were going to operate or not. I was lucky to get away with no operation but I wasn’t allowed to fly for a few months as in-flight cabin pressure could cause complications. The fight was in Melbourne and I live on the Gold Coast, so my mum had to take one for the team and drive me 24 hours to get back home.

What's your advice to someone who aspires to become  successful in international sports?

If this is something you want to do more than you want to breathe, go for it 100%. You might not get rich, but you will create memories you will be proud to tell your family and friends about.

You retired in 2012 and made a come back the following year. What triggered the decision to make a come back?

Before I retired, I was getting bored doing the same thing every day and just needed a break from the routine. It didn’t take long before I realized training and fighting is the only thing that makes me happy. When I came back again, I had a new outlook on the sport. Now I train and fight because I love it, not because I have to.

What's the hardest thing about Muay Thai?

Hardest thing would be the daily grind. It's not easy being exhausted every day, but if you have a dream, you don’t mind putting in the hours running on the road or the time in the gym hitting pads and sparring. There’s no better feeling than fighting on TV, making the magazines and having fans come up to shake your hand. When that happens, it makes it all worth it.

What did you miss most about Australia when you were in Thailand?

The only thing would have been having personal space. You live at the [Muay Thai training] camp and share a room, sleeping on a wooden floor with the other boxers and trainers. You are 24/7 training, eating and sleeping together. Besides that, I didn’t really miss home that much. I learnt how to speak Thai. I could watch Thai TV, sing Thai songs and Muay Thai is life there, so for me, Thailand was heaven. These days with phones and internet it would be a lot easier to live in Thailand compared to when I lived there in the 90’s. If I had to do it now all over again now, it would be a lot easier to be able to live there and keep in contact with family.