He has battled the most vicious Muay Thai boxers on the planet and seen more blood than a paramedic, but the sight of his dad being dissolved by cancer shattered Parr. Only 10 days after the birth of his son Jesse James, Parr farewelled his biggest supporter last week.
As one of three Australians who competed in a new reality show, The Contender Asia (a Muay Thai version of the boxing tournament), he was grateful he had time after filming to spend with the ailing Jim Parr, a former jockey. It gave him a chance to say what tough guys save up.
"Me and my dad were never emotional with each other, so I'm really glad I got to tell him how I felt," Parr said. "I would have been devastated if it had been a car accident or something like that where I didn't get to say my final goodbyes.
"Dad started speaking incoherently for the last 48 hours, then he couldn't talk at all. Then he stopped gurgling and I thought he had coughed it all out and was going to be all right. But his breath started going to half-breaths, then a quarter, and then …"
At his funeral, Parr discovered his father had told his closest friend weeks earlier he wished to see two things before he died - his grandson, and his son compete in The Contender Asia. Parr had arranged both without knowing, and in hindsight, sees so much.
"I downloaded my fights from the show and watched it with him. During one of the fights the commentator said 'John Wayne Parr is dedicating this to his father'. He kind of looked at me and put his arm around me. He didn't say anything, he didn't have to. Just that moment, my dad with his arm around me, yeah … that said it all. He was proud as punch of his boy."
Parr, a five-time world champion, and fellow Australians Bruce Macfie and Soren Mongkontong were selected to compete in the first Muay Thai Contender series against 13 international opponents including 22-year-old Thai phenomenon Yodsaenklai Fairtex.
The show was filmed in Singapore and, like the boxing version which has featured Australian fighters Sam Soliman and Sakio Bika, pitched all contestants in the same house.
Muay Thai fighting is renowned for its deep respect between opponents and, while most fighters got along, Parr did not take kindly to Frenchman Rafik Bakkouri. "The first time I met him I knew he was a 100 per cent c---head," Parr said. "He's had 30 or 40 fights and he's trying to tell us how to do it. I've had 95 fights. He tried to manipulate all the other fighters so he could get the easy fights."
Bakkouri had his eye firmly on the $US150,000 ($157,000) winner's prize, the largest purse offered for any Muay Thai tournament in the sport's history. Muay Thai is referred to as the "Science of Eight Limbs" with fighters able to strike with their hands, shins, elbows, and knees, so there are eight points of contact. Parr has also tried his hand at professional boxing and said five rounds of Muay Thai was more taxing than 12 rounds of boxing.
It has been a roller-coaster month for Parr, who turned 32 last week and is still dealing with the extreme emotions of a birth and death.
"When my son was born, it was just absolute elation. And then 10 days later my dad died in such pain and misery, it was pure devastation. I started thinking about the two things and asked myself, 'what's in the middle?'. We're born, we die. What's the go? What's the plan? I have this philosophy that when I retire I want to be remembered, I want to leave a legacy."