The 20-year-old Aussie phenom will face the Thai legend in the co-main event of ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE this Friday, 28 February, and one man that believes he can walk away with the inaugural ONE Strawweight Muay Thai World Title is his friend, coach, and mentor, John Wayne Parr.
“The Gunslinger” is one of the most well-known and beloved farang athletes in the history of “the art of eight limbs” because of his multiple-time World Championship success, fearless in-ring style, and down-to-earth attitude.
The Australian hung up his gloves last year after an iconic career, and now he is spending more time passing on his knowledge and training Ogden for the biggest match of his career.
Parr met his protégé three years ago when one of his friends from Thailand brought him to his Boonchu Gym on Queensland’s Gold Coast and he took him under his wing, and they have worked side-by-side ever since.
Ahead of Ogden’s bout at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Parr reveals how their relationship came to fruition, his breakdown for the match at ONE: KING OF THE JUNGLE, and why he wishes he was still competing so he could be a part of ONE Championship.
ONE Championship: What did you know about Rocky before you met?
John Wayne Parr: I didn’t know Rocky until we met, and ever since then, I’ve been a massive fan. It’s been crazy to see him not only do so well in the sport but now to be a fan.
I got to watch him fight in Thailand. I got to watch him fight at my promotion called CMT, which is Cage Muay Thai, where he won by head kick knockout, and then we’ve just had like this brother friendship ever since we met. He can speak Thai, I can speak Thai. We have the same personality, we have the same history with Thailand, and we both have the same goals in life is to become the best Thai boxers that we can be.
Out of everyone in the world that I know, he is probably the closest to my lifestyle than anyone else that I’ve ever met. So, I’m so fortunate that we’ve become good friends and that he’s dating my daughter!
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ONE: What’s your relationship with Rocky?
JWP: My relationship with Rocky is we’re pretty much just two bros that live in the gym, training side-by-side with each other. We run, we train.
I’m holding pads at the moment trying to prepare him for this fight. I’m doing my best impersonation of Sam-A so come fight time there are no surprises. Rocky comes over to my home all the time. We’re just hanging out. Outside of the gym, we’re just good mates. It’s really cool to have that relationship where it’s not just fighting and training, it’s about the lifestyle and enjoying every second of what the sport brings.
ONE: Do you consider yourself as his coach?
JWP: I consider myself as Rocky’s best mate or one of his best mates. Being his coach is a bonus, but just being his friend is more important to me than coach and student. I think our friendship, our bond, is much stronger than just friendship.
It’s important to me because I just think he’s a really good kid. I have all the time in the world for him. If he ever gave me a call in the middle of the night, I’d be the first one to jump in my car and see if he was okay. He’s just a very positive young man that I really have all the time in the world for, and I really want to see him succeed. I think he deserves it from all the years that he’s put in the sport already.
ONE: How’s the training going with Rocky?
JWP: The training so far has been very positive. Every week we’re getting stronger and stronger. We’re forming game plans. We’re creating opportunities where, hopefully, with Rocky’s power we can cause one of the biggest upsets in ONE Championship. It’s gonna be amazing – I’m really excited. I think Rocky can shock the world.
ONE: What do you think of him as an athlete?
JWP: I believe Rocky is very dedicated to the sport, and he has big aspirations to be one of the greatest. I’m so fortunate that I can be by his side to help push him along and help him achieve those dreams.
I’ve been very fortunate to have 147 fights and to do all that stuff all over the world, and then nothing would make me more proud to see him walk in my footsteps, and to travel the world and to do something that he loves and to be successful.
The only way to do that is to go out there and train hard and make people pay attention so they remember your name at the end of every fight. I believe it’s very important to have aspirations because your dreams aren’t going to chase themselves. You have to go out there, and you have to create them – just like what’s happening now.
Rocky’s done a lot of stuff in the past, and then ONE Championship has approached us to fight. So obviously, he’s made the right impressions around the world to get everyone’s attention, and now we have the capitalize on it and go out there and put on an amazing performance to make sure that ONE Championship hasn’t made the wrong decision. They’ve made the right decision in signing him and making him one of the team.
ONE: What are your impressions of ONE Championship?
JWP: I love what ONE Championship is doing. I think it opens a variety of doors for young fighters that wished to be superstars in their own given sport so that they’re not just dedicating to one style. They have multiple disciplines where you can be a champion.
I have nothing but thanks for the opportunities that they’ve given all these people. It’s so cool to sit and watch the app and watch all these crazy fights. And I can say, ‘There’s my friend fighting!’ It’s so cool to just have the Muay Thai on the big stage, on the world stage, for guys like Rocky to get the opportunities to shine.
ONE: What is your impression of the level of fighters in ONE Championship?
JWP: I believe ONE Championship is the elite of the elite. It’s such a cool promotion because every single fight is the fight of your life. With Rocky having his first fight in ONE Championship, and to be given Sam-A for the World Title for his first fight is crazy.
If he wins, he becomes an overnight superstar across the world. If he gives an amazing performance and doesn’t win, at least he’s got his name out there so people will recognize him from this moment forward. Our goal is to train hard and make sure there’s no stone left unturned and to make sure that we fight exciting. And hopefully, come home with the World Title.
My only regret in this sport is not being able to fight for ONE Championship. I believe they’re the strongest promotion in the world. They have the greatest talent. I was very fortunate to travel all over the world and fight on all the big shows, but now ONE Championship is here.
It would have been so cool to mix it with the best, and I’m fortunate to be in Rocky’s corner so that when we do come to the fight, I get to shake hands with all the other fighters and just be present in that in the same room as so many incredible champions. I’m so thankful for ONE Championship for reaching out and giving Rocky this chance because, like I said, I didn’t get that chance, but I get to live my life through him, so I’m excited to be part of the team.
ONE: Which traits have made Rocky come as far as he is today and will bring him into the future?
JWP: Rocky’s best trait is that he’s a good listener. If I pass on any advice, he takes it all aboard, and he does his best to make sure that he tries new techniques.
He’s not limited to a handful of techniques – he can think outside the box. To listen to people that have been there before, his elders, and [that will] help him become great.
ONE: What are his strengths?
JWP: His hands. He punches very hard for his power-to-weight ratio. His punches are quite impressive, and then the idea of him fighting in mixed martial arts gloves, in a cage, I think that’s what’s gonna give us our ultimate advantage against an incredible opponent like Sam-A.
Sam-A is amazing. He has all the tools that have made him who he is, but we’ve come to shock the world. If Rocky can stay focused and keep a poker face and not let the occasion overawe him, I believe that he has the ability, if he can land, to shock the world and to walk away with the belt.
ONE: What do you think of Sam-A?
JWP: I believe Sam-A is one of the best Thais in my generation. He has 420 fights, southpaw, multiple championships, Thai fighter of the year 2011, and then I’ve been a fan of his for many, many years and never in my wildest dreams did I think that one of my students would one day compete against him. It’s such a massive opportunity.
Like I said, the worst-case scenario is we gave an impressive and entertaining fight that will go down in history. If we win, then boom! Anything can happen from that point forward, but the main thing is to go in there confident, fight strong, fight exciting, and just to get Sam-A’s respect with Rocky’s power.
If we go in there and get beat up then we deserve to lose, but if we go in there and put on a good fight then that’s when people start paying attention. Win, lose, or draw, I want people [speaking] his name all over the world after this fight.
ONE: What do you think Sam-A’s strengths are?
JWP: Sam-A has an amazing left leg, he’s got good elbows, he’s got a strong clinch, and he’s been there so many times that he’s not going to be afraid. We’ve just got to go in there and show that we’re not intimidated.
Sam-A can bring his best. Whatever he lands, we just dust it off and show him that you can’t break us. We’re here to win, and we’re not going to lay down for you. We’re here to capture your belt and take it home and then reflect and think how amazing it was.
ONE: How do you see the outcome of this bout?
JWP: I see the outcome of this bout being fight of the night… We’ve come here to make an impression, an everlasting impression.
We’re going to train hard, we’re going to fight exciting, we’re going to do our best to capture the belt, and just introduce ourselves to the world because not many people know who Rocky is and this is the opportunity to say… You get one chance to make a first impression, and what better impression than to beat Sam-A.