John Wayne Parr’s love of Muay Thai remains as strong as ever at age 44. The 10-time world champion called time on his career in 2019, after a boxing bout with Anthony Mundine. However, despite undergoing hip replacement surgery in early 2020, it didn’t take much convincing to bring him back to the cage.
Parr fights Dutch superstar Nieky Holzken under Muay Thai rules at ONE on TNT 3, an event that goes to air on April 22.
Speaking exclusively to Fight News Australia, ‘The Gunslinger’ detailed a chance encounter with ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong that led to him joining ONE Championship.
“I was very fortunate. I’d just fought Anthony (Mundine), called retirement because my hip was done, I was waiting for surgery. My daughter’s boyfriend Rocky (Ogden) has a contract with ONE, I took him over to fight, and Mr. Chatri (Sityodtong) came into the change room. He said ‘I like your aggression, you’re always exciting, what can we do to entice you to come and have one more run for the title in ONE Championship?’ I thought ‘oh man my hips screwed, I can’t even walk.’”
But a positive prognosis from a surgeon led to a quick backflip from Parr. That is, assuming he has even thought of turning down the chance to fight in the ONE Circle.
“So I got offered a contract, went and saw a surgeon and he was very positive, he said ‘I can guarantee that after surgery you’ll be back in the gym after two months.’ I was like ‘no way!’ But sure enough, at the two month mark I was back and I went to see him after three months and he said ‘from this moment forward, whatever you want to do, do it.’”
“I’ve been training super hard ever since, and then of all people, Nieky called me out. I thought ‘oh wow, didn’t see that coming’ so yeah, it’s exciting.”
In Holzken, the ONE matchmakers have thrown Parr a tough assignment first up. But the affable Queenslander is un-phased by the task, and sees a poetic aspect to the matchup, given that both men’s teachers faced each other on three occasions in the 1990s.
“Ramon Dekkers fought Sangtiennoi three times, twice in 1991 and once in 1997, so now 30 years later their two pupils are fighting each other, it’s such a crazy storyline. So this is my Ramon Dekkers fight, I didn’t get to fight the man, but I can fight the next best thing.”
“I fought a lot of good Thais, a lot of great opponents but Nieky is at the top, he’s the man. So if I can get a good, exciting victory, I think that would really help cement my legacy at Ramon Dekkers level. I hope.”
Storylines aside, both Holzken and Parr are known for their heavy hands, each possessing a slew of knockout wins on their resumes. On paper, it looks to be a fan friendly fight. Parr all but guaranteed it, as only he can.
“There is the age old adage that violence is never the answer, but in this case it will be” he quipped. “It’s the only answer, it’s going to be super cool, it’s going to be exciting, it’s going to be fun.”
“I want to make sure I finish the fight throwing punches, I want to throw all the way to the final bell. I don’t want any boring moments, I want to make sure that people remember this fight for a long time.”
Most fighters in their 40s can’t help but think about the future and what retirement might look like. Despite several failed retirement attempts, Parr isn’t looking past Nieky Holzken. He is living out his boyhood dream, and he’s not ready to wake up yet.
“I’m just riding the wave. Nieky is the elite of the elite, so whatever happens after that doesn’t really matter” he said. “I’m happy just to cruise along. I’ve got a six-fight contract, I can’t guarantee that I’m going to get through that at my age, but I just want to ride it out and hopefully the body can hold up as much as it can. Then we’ll see what happens after that.”
“I’m so excited to fight for ONE. I’m probably one of the only fighters that’s done Lumpini, Rajadamnern, Bellator, Rizin and K1. And now to fight for ONE, I’m so honoured that I get these opportunities and I hope this ride never ends, it’s so cool.”
After all of his achievements across a career now spanning across four decades, Parr feels that even though it has come in the twilight of his career, a win over Holzken could be his crowning achievement.
“This is my fight, this is the one, you dream of having this big one. I promise not to let the opportunity slip thorough my fingers, I’m going to give it my best.”