If you are into Muay Thai or kickboxing, you must have heard of the name John Wayne Parr (JWP).
Known as the “Gunslinger”, Parr is perhaps the greatest Muay Thai fighter to have ever come from Australia. He has made so many accomplishments in the fields of Muay Thai, and kickboxing in his more than two decades as a professional fighter.
For starters, Parr is a 10-time World Champion in Muay Thai and kickboxing. Those numerous titles are perhaps the greatest indication of his abilities and the lofty status he enjoys in the world of martial arts.
However, even with all of his accolades and accomplishments, the 44-year-old isn’t done yet. Parr recently signed a contract to fight in ONE Championship. That’s a good indication that he still has something left even after nearly three decades of fighting.
Let’s find out more about Parr in this article, aside from having one of the coolest nicknames in all of combat sports.
The Legend Begins
Ironically, Parr’s path to martial arts was not through Muay Thai, Kickboxing, or Boxing.
It was through the Korean martial art of Taekwondo, which he started training in at the age of 11. He joined competitions in Queensland, where he fought for a title at the QE2 Stadium in 1988 and eventually settled for the silver medal.
It was not until two years later, at the age of 13, when JWP started training in kickboxing. This happened just before they moved to Sydney. The Taekwondo school where he was training at had to close down but a kickboxing school took over the premise.
As it was, his interest in kickboxing was inspired by no less than Jean-Claude Van Damme, through the movie Kickboxer.
Parr watched the movie and fell in love with the character played by Van Damme and the style that he used, which was kickboxing. Van Damme’s character travelled to Thailand, fighting against the Thais and 13-year-old Parr decided that was what he wanted to do.
He had his first kickboxing fight at age 14 in Richmond, New South Wales.
Early Career in Muay Thai and Moving to Thailand
As his family moved back to Queensland, Parr had an opportunity to work with Blair Moore. Moore happened to be one of the leading promoters of Muay Thai in Queensland during those days.
JWP turned professional at the age of 16. He was able to win the Australian championship at the age of 17. In this first phase of Parr’s career, he was able to capture some regional championships and that includes one from the World Kickboxing Association (WKA).
One of the major turning points of JWP’s life and career came when he met Richard Vell at age 19. Vell owned a well-regarded Thai restaurant in Australia, Boonchu Thai Food. The two became very close and Vell became like a second father to Parr, so much so that he sponsored Parr’s first trip to Thailand.
And so that was how, in 1996, Parr moved to Thailand. He initially lived in Pattaya and trained at the renowned Sityodtong Gym for the next three months.
Eventually, he moved to Nonthaburi, Bangkok to train at the Loomingkwan Gym. The gym accepted Parr as their very first non-Thai fighter. This was significant because there were very few Western fighters in the country in those times.
Becoming “John Wayne” Parr
Let’s talk a bit about a little fun fact about the Gunslinger. The world and especially fans of combat sports know him today as “John Wayne Parr” but that’s not his real name. His given name was actually Wayne Gregory Parr.
At the Lookmingkwan Gym, he trained with the golden era legend Sangtiennoi Sor Rungroj, known as the Deadly Kisser. Parr became the Thai legend’s sparring and clinch partner. This was also the period when he was given the name “John Wayne Parr” after the famous John Wayne of the old Westerns. The name has stuck and has since become a major part of the Aussie fighter’s legend.
As for being nicknamed the “Gunslinger”, that too has an interesting background. He was given that nickname because whenever he finishes his Wai Kru Ram Muay, he draws an imaginary gun from an imaginary holster in imitation of a gunslinger. (Thai fighters -traditionally- end with a bow-and-arrow routine inspired by Ramayana)
The Gunslinger Finds Success
Parr initially struggled with the training regimen and overall life in Thailand. The training regimen followed by the Thai fighters was extremely grueling in the 90s, and that’s probably an understatement. It was no training vacation.
In the mornings, they train from 6 AM to 9 AM. Breakfast would then be at 10 AM. The fighters sleep and rest throughout the day. Then they’re back at it at 3 PM and the training would last until 6:30 PM. They did that 7 days a week.
Eventually, though, he managed to thrive and find success in the birthplace of Muay Thai.
In about his years of living and fighting in Thailand, Parr was able to compete in around 30 fights. He fought against notable names in the sport including golden era legends like Orono Por Muang-Ubon and Superlek Sorn Esarn, as well as French legend, Jean-Charles Skarbowsky.
Along the way, he picked up a couple of world titles and fought at the legendary Lumpinee Stadium, Rajadamnern Stadium as well as 4 appearances on the King’s Birthday shows.
John Wayne Parr – Phase 2.0
After nearly 4 years of living, training, and fighting in Thailand, Parr returned to Australia. He opened his own gym, “Boonchu Gym”, named after the restaurant of his benefactor, Richard Vell. The gym continues to be one of the most popular and successful training facilities in the country.
Back in Australia, he fought a host of kickboxers and Muay Thai fighters, with mostly successful results. For example, he fought and defeated eventual K-1 tournament winner Takayuki Kohiruimaki in April 1998 through a unanimous decision.
Another notable win was against Scott Bannan who held the ISKA Muay Thai Middleweight World title in October 2000. He beat Bannan via KO to claim the title.
Shift to Boxing
Parr also tried his hand in professional boxing. He first tried it when he returned from his stint in Thailand in 1999. JWP’s first boxing bout was a 4-round bout against Tim Shannon, which he won via TKO in Round 2. He had a few consecutive wins in boxing shifting his focus to Kickboxing and Muay Thai again.
After a few years, however, Parr tried his hand in boxing again. In 2001, he fought for the vacant Australian Middleweight title against Andriy Khamula. He won via TKO in the 10th round to win his first-ever boxing championship.
Parr continued to have some success in his succeeding boxing bouts. In fact, his last fight was a boxing match. He faced and defeated former world champion Anthony Mundine in November 2019 via a split decision. After the fight, the Gunslinger announced his retirement from fighting. His stated reason was his need for a hip replacement.
Year 2000 marks JWP’s return to the world of kickboxing. A KO victory at K1 Oceania Max tournament set off a chain of wins leading him to the biggest stage in the global kickboxing scene – K1 World Max.
In 2004, Parr came face-to-face with none other than Muay Thai icon, Buakaw in the K1 World Max tournament quarter-finals in Japan. Three intense and exciting rounds later, judges scored the fight as a draw and it went down to an extension round.
Buakaw eventually edged out via split decision and went on to capture the tournament champion title in the finals.
John Wayne Parr became a household name in the global Muay Thai community when he starred in the TV reality series, The Contender Asia. The 2008 series was known as The Contender: Kickboxer in the United Kingdom, and The Contender: Muay Thai in the United States.
The series spanned 15 weeks in a “Survivor”-style format where 16 competitors were eliminated each episode until 2 finalists remained. JWP and Thai legend, Yodsanklai Fairtex won their places as the final two, culminating in an exciting finale.
Parr recovered from two knockdowns in the fight to go the distance but lost out via decision to the formidable Yodsanklai.
Caged Muay Thai and as a Promoter
Parr was also involved in something known as caged Muay Thai in Australia in 2012. It is perhaps best described this way – a fusion of Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). A cage is used instead of the usual boxing or Muay Thai ring.
Perhaps even more significant than the use of a cage instead of a ring is the different gloves used. Caged Muay Thai used MMA gloves, which were smaller and fingerless. This allowed the use of the fighter’s fingers for clinching and grabbing kicks.
Muay Thai with MMA gloves are more widespread these days with promotions like MX Muay Xtreme, Muay Hardcore and ONE Championship. But JWP is a true pioneer.
Parr did not just serve as the promoter of caged Muay Thai, he also fought in it. It showed his enthusiasm for the features that made it unique, especially when compared to traditional Muay Thai.
The Gunslinger’s not yet finished. He first retired in 2012 but came out of retirement the following year.
He announced his retirement again in November 2019 due to a hip replacement surgery. Parr has since recovered from the operation and was itching to get back in the ring when an offer came.
He inked an contract with ONE Championship this past March. He hasn’t fought in any of their cards, though. It remains to be seen whether he’ll end up joining the promotions Super Series, which is specifically for strikers.
John Wayne Parr has enjoyed considerable success throughout his long career. Perhaps the best proof of that is the many titles and championships that he managed to win over the years. The following are some of his most notable accomplishments:
World Muay Thai Council (WMC)
- 2008 WMC Contender Asia Runner-Up
- 2007 WMC Muay Thai World Middleweight Champion
- 2001 King’s Cup Tournament Champion
- 1999 WMTC Australian Junior Middleweight Champion
- 1997 King’s Cup Winner
World Kickboxing Association (WKA)
- 2013 WKA World Middleweight Oriental Championship
- 2010 WKA Muay Thai World Middleweight Championship
- 1994 WKA South Pacific Super Lightweight Champion
- 1992 WKA Australian Super Lightweight Champion
- 2005 K-1 World MAX World Final 8
- 2004 K-1 World MAX World Final 8
- 2002 Oceania K-1 MAX Finalist
- 2000 ISKA Muay Thai World Middleweight Champion
John Wayne Parr is a legend in combat sports, of that there is no doubt. He is arguably the greatest Muay Thai fighter to have ever come out of Australia.
His experience living and fighting in Thailand is the reason he has huge respect not just for Muay Thai but for the people and culture that produced it.
He tries to apply everything he has learned, not just in Thailand but in all of his years of experience, in his own Boonchu Gym. The Gunslinger is mentoring others who want to become fighters and even those who just want to learn the sport of Muay Thai and boxing.
His kids have even chosen to follow in his steps. Jazzy Parr, his eldest child, competes in Muay Thai, while his 2 younger kids also train in martial arts.
The legacy of JWP is secured, even as he has chosen to continue his journey with his recent signing at ONE Championship. Whatever happens, he will forever be known as one of the international icons of striking!