Parr for the force

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Pay-tv - DAR­REN DEVLYN

JOHN Wayne Parr has an ex­traor­di­nary abil­ity to not only in­flict pain, but to ab­sorb phys­i­cal pu­n­ish­ment. This be­comes gut-wrench­ingly ap­par­ent in the fi­nal of re­al­ity se­ries where Parr, 32, is pit­ted against Yod­saen­klai, who is 10 years Parr’s ju­nior and con­sid­ered the hard­est kicker on the planet. The ring an­nouncer, bat­tling to be heard above the cheers and jeers of fans, in­tro­duces ‘‘the gun­sling­ing, rib-crack­ing, headachemak­ing, ca­reer- end­ing, jaw­break­ing John Wayne Parr’’. But Parr, from Queens­land, en­ters the ring the un­der­dog in a bat­tle for the $150,000 win­ner’s purse. His op­po­nent is a world cham­pion dubbed ‘‘the Hu­man Com­puter’’ for his per­fectly cal­cu­lated style. No sooner has the first round be­gun than Parr and Yod­saen­klai are at each other with blaz­ing el­bows, bruis­ing kicks and pound­ing knee jabs. Parr has said Thai box­ing teaches hu­mil­ity, cour­tesy and re­spect, but he and his op­po­nent prove re­lent­less in their at­tempt to hurt each other in the course of the fiver­ound fi­nal. Be­fore the fi­nal bout, Yod­saen­klai said of Muay Thai: ‘‘It’s the na­tional art of Thai­land. ‘‘I’ve been fight­ing 14 years and I’m a world cham­pion. Fight­ing west­ern box­ers is not a prob­lem.’’ The dif­fi­cult path Parr trav­elled to reach the fi­nal should not be un­der­es­ti­mated. At one point in the com­pe­ti­tion, he was forced to lose 10kg in only 12 hours, slip­ping into a skin-tight plas­tic sweat suit, then a thick woollen track­suit, The Con­tender: Muay Thai, be­fore tak­ing off on runs to help him shed the ki­los. Once the weight was lost, Parr had to face French op­po­nent Rafik Bakkouri in the ring. ‘‘I was a bit of a fatty,’’ says Parr, his face scarred by the 225 stitches he’s re­ceived to mend box­ing in­juries. ‘‘I was walk­ing around at 82kg and the cut-off is 73½kg, so when I was cho­sen for the fight chal­lenge I had 12 hours to lose what­ever weight I could.’’ Parr’s love of mar­tial arts be­gan in child­hood. By 20, he’d won Aus­tralian and South Pa­cific ti­tles. He then made the sac­ri­fice of mov­ing to Thai­land for four years to hone his Muay Thai skills. ‘‘Since I was 11 I’ve had the dream of be­com­ing a cham­pion and I’ve never given up no mat­ter what chal­lenges have been thrown at me,’’ Parr says. ‘‘I’ve stayed fo­cused and sac­ri­ficed ev­ery­thing to get where I am.’’ Parr, who owns Aus­tralia’s lead­ing Muay Thai gym, Boonchu in Queens­land, is mar­ried to Cal­i­for­nian fe­male Muay Thai box­ing star An­gela Parr. The fa­ther of two says tak­ing part in was a temp­ta­tion he couldn’t re­sist. ‘It’s one of those once-in-al­ife­time op­por­tu­ni­ties,’’ he says.

NThe Con­tender: Muay Thai OT even his wife find­ing out she was preg­nant a day be­fore Parr de­parted for the eight-week re­al­ity-tele­vi­sion ad­ven­ture could stop him from jump­ing on the plane. ‘‘She’s very sup­port­ive and that was a pretty busy time for us, but she knew what it meant to me,’’ he says. The Con­tender: Muay Con­tender: Muay Thai Thai charted the ad­ven­tures of 16 as­pir­ing Muay Thai kick box­ers from their train­ing camp in Sin­ga­pore through a se­ries of out­door chal­lenges and sanc­tioned matches. The fi­nal is not the first time Parr and Yod­saen­klai have faced off in the ring. Yod­saen­klai claimed the world cham­pi­onship belt in their 2005 bout in Aus­tralia.

Kick­ing on: Muay Thai fighter John Wayne Parr fights in the re­al­ity-show fi­nal.

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