Pinoy Flag in the Muay Thai Ring
- Edmund Silvestre () - September 28, 2008 - 12:00am

Filipino-Americans acquainted with Muay Thai (Thai boxing) are surprised to find out that one of the top U.S. fighters in this world’s fastest growing sport is a Fil-Am from New York.

Chris Romulo, a 33-year-old martial artist from Jamaica, Queens, has made a name for himself since he got into Muay Thai over a decade ago. A popular hard martial art from Southeast Asia, it is now gaining a huge following in the U.S. The sport is referred to as “The Art of the Eight Limbs,” as hands, shins, elbows and knees are all used extensively by the fighter. Romulo was the main fighter for the Friday Night Fights NYC Series, New York’s longest running Muay Thai fight series. The big event was held on Sept 26 at Lexington Avenue Armory on 26th Street in Manhattan. He faced the black American fighter Jay Ellis from Wisconsin.

This is Romulo’s first fight in 13 months after he lost a major match in August 2007 to Canadian fighter Alex Ricci. Due to a knee injury and problems outside of the ring, he has not been able to come back until now.

“I’m back 100 percent...I’m ready!” Romulo declared in an interview with STARweek. “I’ve been training since January for about four to six hours a day.”

While the pressure on Romulo is great for this fight, “he is eager to make his return to the ring and to present his best showing yet for his fans,” says promoter Justin Blair of the Church Street Boxing Gym.

Romulo’s record is 7-1 as a professional, and before turning pro he compiled an amateur record of 19 wins and 2 losses.  

“Chris’ amateur resume is impressive,” Blair says. “As an amateur, he went to Thailand where he took the bronze in a globally recognized tournament called the King’s Cup. As an amateur, Chris also took the North American super middle weight title along with several national and regional titles.”

Romulo has earned a strong reputation as a fierce competitor “with power in both hands (and legs) that never backs up but also has the technical ability to pick apart lesser opponents,” according to Blair.

Proud of his heritage, Romulo’s signature entrance to the ring always includes the Filipino flag wrapped around him like a cape. “I also do the traditional Muay Thai dance in the ring before I fight,” he adds.

First in his family to be born in the US, Romulo’s father Carlito, who is from Manila, is a black belter in tae kwon do. His mother, Lucita Fernandez Romulo, hails from Tagudin, Ilocos Sur.

Still in the early stages of his professional career in Muay Thai, Romulo admits the pay is far from what professional boxers get. But he’s not complaining because the sport “has always been my passion and lifestyle.”

“I have always been a martial artist and I find Muay Thai more appealing because you use more of your body and mind,” he points out. “It’s like chess where you have to think a little more.”

“Boxing is a bigger sport, I know, but I grew up watching Bruce Lee,” he adds. “I admire his philosophy of learning a little bit of everything and incorporating or developing them into your own style of martial arts. And since I also train in judo, tae kwon do, boxing and wrestling, I get to use them all in Muay Thai.”

When not fighting, Romulo, a father of a 10-year-old boy, works as a Muay Thai instructor at Church Street Boxing Gym in Manhattan and he also offers personal gym training.

“Muay Thai is huge in Europe and Asia, and it’s also getting big in some parts of the Philippines like Cebu and Manila,” Romulo notes. “Hopefully, someday, it reaches the popularity of boxing.”

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