Parr for the force
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.