Uncaged: ‘John’ Wayne Parr

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International Kickboxer Magazine, July/August 2012

‘John’ Wayne Parr has supplied international Muay Thai with some of its greatest moments over the course of his twenty-one year career. His skills as a promoter have allowed him to hatch a novel idea – Muay Thai in the cage – for his last fight. He talks to JARROD BOYLE about events in the lead-up to one of the most significant dates in this country’s history of the sport.

‘John’ Wayne Parr, on the eve of the last fight of his professional career, is excited. Parr has decided to make his retirement fight a little bit different, courtesy of some inspiration from the UFC. Parr is going to fight Jordan Tai under Muay Thai rules, in a cage.

“With those little four-ounce gloves, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game. If you aren’t fit, you’ll get KOed. For my last fight, I want to go balls to the wall. I’m mentally prepped for a broken hand or wrist. I want to go out with a bang; [I am] definitely going to leave an impression with the cage and those gloves. The stakes are so much higher; one mistake and I’ll get KOed. I really feel like I’m having my first fight again – it’s exciting.”

Exciting, indeed. When a fighter of JWP’s cailbre decides it’s time to hang up the gloves, the emphasis is on going out with a bang. For Wayne, the idea of fighting in a cage answers those requirements. “Basically, I’m a huge UFC fan and I like the idea of being locked up in the cage and having to fight my way out.” The fight will be conducted under traditional Muay Thai rules, with four-ounce gloves, in a cage. The question is, how will this affect the fight, other than its theatricality?

“I’m going to have to be more careful; hitting the cage will rip toes off and hurt like hell. You’ll also be able to push your opponent up against the cage, making them more vulnerable. You can’t just lean against the ropes and teep them away and expect to be safe. [You’ll] have to use your footwork; stay on your toes. You can’t run; there’ll come a time when you’re going to have to bite down on that mouthpiece and have a crack’. Parr says that the amount of interest from the MMA community, especially American websites, has been huge. “People keep asking, ‘What made you come up with the concept? ‘It’s easy’ I say, ‘I’m too lazy to learn jiu jitsu.”

Indeed, JWP’s fixation with all things UFC and mixed martial arts in general led him to this particular format. “I broke my finger training in jiu-jitsu – I decided I’d try it for six months to see how I go. At the end of it, I’d see if I can get a cage fight. One day, I went from mount to get into side control and my finger bent back and snapped. I had to have six to eight weeks off until it healed – even running was too painful. I thought, ‘I still have to do this cage thing to get it out of my system’. From a promoter’s standpoint, there’s no difference between hiring a cage and hiring a ring. So I thought, ‘Let’s do the cage’.

The bugbear of Wayne’ s fighting career has always been cutting weight. “Currently, I’meighty-two kilos. I’m going to be fighting at 72. I have six weeks to lose it.” As ever, the battle is fought via nutrition. “I’m eating lots of fish, vegies, and watching my portion size. More output than intake. The best part of retiring is that after 114 fights, I’ll never have to cut weight again!”

As with all fighters reaching retirement, it invariably comes as a matter of necessity, rather than choice. “I damaged my wrist when I fought Mostafa [Abdollahi] in Canberra last year, then [made it worse when I fought] Nonsai at Evolution 25. It’s a bone edema (chronic bruising), as a result of all the pounding over twenty-five years in the sport. The constant wear and tear is catching up with me. I’m getting to the stage now where it’s just not healing. I’m constantly sore. When I was a bit younger, two or three weeks, it’d come good. Now, I cop a knock and it takes me months.”

Injury aside, Wayne has had a strong twelve months in the ring. “Over the last twelve months, I’ve been lucky to be on a winning streak. I KOed Zambidis in the first round, I beat Nonsai, beat Mustapha and also beat Yodsanklai. I think I’m still ranked at number one on the WMC world ratings.”

With a resume like that, it’s difficult to find an opponent that’s going to satisfy an audience. Parr has settled on New Zealand stalwart, Jordan Tai. “I saw him on a poster for one of Joe Nader’s shows – I’d wanted to fight him before; I thought I’d give it a crack and see what he says. When I asked him, he said yes. He’s a big name in New Zealand, and I don’t want to go out fighting a no-name. Besides, that good old New Zealand/Australia rivalry always makes for good stoushes.”

Speaking of good stoushes, although Wayne Parr’s body might be telling him it’s time to finish up, there are plenty of people who would still love to see him fight a number of prime contenders, two of them Australian. When people talk about fighters, it isn’t in a vacuum; it’s always in comparison with other fighters. Not only is Parr world-class, we’ve seen him take on many of the best of his own standing. To really know how good Steve Moxon and Frank Giorgi are, we need to see them in action.

“To be honest, I don’t much want to be the stepping-stone for them getting to the next level,” says Wayne. “I want to be the one chasing the dream. If you’re not chasing, you become complacent; get slack at training, get beaten, then you’re a has-been. I don’t want to end up being the guy who’s had ten fights too many. I certainly don’t want to disrespect anyone; they’re great fighters, but at this point in my career, I’d rather lose to somebody like Buakaw or Petrosyan.”

Post-fighting, Parr’s attention turns to the subject of family. When asked how they’re getting on, he says, “Awesome.” His youngest daughter, Jasmine, will continue with her fighting career. “She was turned off by the media circus last year, but she’ll fight again soon. She’s nine now, and she is coming up to her second fight. My son, Jesse James, is only four. At the moment, he just fights his sister – daily.”

Parr says that Jasmine is pretty relaxed about the whole business now, no doubt helped by the fact she has a mother and father who have spent a significant amount of time in both fight-sports and the public eye. “People recognise her sometimes on the street. They come up, shake her hand and tell her she’s awesome. People involved in martial arts knew it was a media storm. At the time, the paper said, ‘the venue was full of drunken lunatics screaming for eight year old blood’. All the kids are fully padded, and only knees to the body are allowed. After the kids finish, the adults start an hour later and then the bar opens. This is to make sure there’s no backlash this time around.”

The natural question that follows is whether or not Angie is retired, also. Parr gives a positive, if non-committal answer. “She might fight again; she’ll have to see how her injuries go. She’s got a few nigglies as well. She started back training as if she’d never stopped, but her body quickly reminded her. If she can get over the nigglies, she’s keen as.”

Australia is in no hurry to see the end of one of its best ever fighters. But, from the sound of things, we may be able to look forward to a dynasty.

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