Wayne Parr was in between training sessions for a kickboxing fight he hopes will secure him his 100th win in the sport when he received a phone call. Five minutes later he had accepted the biggest fight of his career.
On November 29, Parr, better known as John Wayne Parr, will fight Australian boxing legend Anthony Mundine in a 75kg catchweight boxing bout in Queensland, Australia.
The fight announcement was as much a surprise to the 10-time world kickboxing champion as it was to the rest of the combat sports community.
“It just came out of nowhere. I’m actually fighting in japan in three and a half weeks on a promotion called Rizin, so I have been fully focused on that,” he said.
“I got the call and I was like, Holy crap, for sure, why not, If he wants to fight me I guess let’s do it.”
Parr has been involved with martial arts since he was 11, starting in Taekwondo and progressing to kickboxing where he had his first fight at age 14.
He’s been competing all around the world ever since.
Despite 132 professional kickboxing fights, 13 professional boxing fights, and multiple world and national title fights, the 43-year-old has never had a fight like this before.
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“I’ve had some amazing fights all over the world, that reality tv show where I fought Yodsanklai in the final, I thought that was big.
“I fought in K-1 in front of 40,000 people – I thought that was big.
“I fought on the King’s birthday in Thailand four times, in front of 100,000 people and I thought that was big and then you get to fight Anthony Mundine and, man, everything changes,” he said.
Parr said most people in Australia don’t know who he is or what he’s achieved outside of the combat sports community, and he sees the fight as a chance to change his life and those who’ve supported him.
“This is my Rocky Balboa moment.”
Unlike Rocky Balboa, Parr will likely enter the bout, the favourite, with his opponent Mundine, coming off a first-round stoppage loss to Brisbane Boxer Jeff Horn, Last December.
Even though Parr has not had a boxing bout since 2003, he’s remained active in kickboxing circuit fighting multiple times a year.
Parr dismissed any claims from his opponent that the fight would turn out exactly like the high-profile boxing match in 2017 between Connor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, where Mayweather finished the mixed martial arts fighter in the 10th round.
“Connor hadn’t boxed [Professionally] before, I’ve had 13 pro boxing fights, I’ve been 12 rounds three different occasions, I’ve knocked out 10 different people with my hands just purely boxing,” he said.
“I’ve been there done that. This isn’t new to me and I have the cardio to go 20 rounds, not just 10.
“The only thing I have to worry about is not killing him, that’s it, I just don’t want an assault charge from the police.”
Though confident Parr recognizes the task in front of him.
“I always thought I would be ready for this, but I am so excited I get pins and needles, I haven’t stopped thinking about it for the last five days,” he said.
“When I think about it the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.”
Over nearly 30 years of competition Parr says his biggest payday to date has only been $45,000. He fights because he loves the sport.
His Gold Coast-based Muay Thai gym, Boonchu, is what has supported his family of five, but he’s never made the kind of money professional boxing or mixed martial arts stars can make.
That will hopefully change come November when he steps into the lucrative world of big-money boxing fights.
“This is the dream fight, where I feel like this is my shot to make my name and get some money in the bank for the first time ever,” said Parr.
“Hopefully this will be enough to pay off my house, so I can finally retire and not have the burden of having to worry about trying to pay off a mortgage.”
At 43-years-old Parr is coming to the end of a storied career in combat sports and the fight with Mundine is the one he has been holding out for.
“I fought the best in Thailand, the best in Japan, the best from every country. I never wanted to leave a stone unturned,” he said.
“I never wanted to retire with a what-if. I’ve never dodged anyone in my whole career. I’ve always said yes. If I win, I win, if I lose, well at least I tried.
“With the Mundine fight, what have I got to lose? If I lose, I was a kickboxer who went to boxing and had a crack. If I win, holy shit my profile has just exploded worldwide.
“It’s a win-win for me in my eyes.”
Parr fights in a kickboxing fight in August, on the Japanese promotion Rizin so at the moment his energy is focused on that, but he’s confident in his skills as a boxer.
“When I get back from Japan I will focus on boxing purely. Takeaway the knees, the kicks, the elbows and then go back to a restricted watered-down version of fighting,” he said.
“I’m not going to waste this opportunity. This opportunity presents itself once and I am going to make sure I grab it with both hands and kick the biggest goal that Australia’s ever seen.”
Bangkok, Thailand based freelance journalist, I grew up in Brisbane hitting pads and getting choked out, when I’m not watching fights, I’m researching fights, writing about fights and pretending I can fight.