Even before Chris Romulo was a professional Muay Thai fighter, he was always the underdog. In fact, the first time his parents saw him fight professionally, the fight was stopped in the second round.
But when the odds were against him, when adversity pressed hardest, Romulo always found a way to come out on top — in and out of the ring.
“Maybe the universe was on my side,” Romulo, now a retired fighter, said in an interview with amNewYork.
The universe, along with support from his neighbors in Rockaway Beach, helped him rebuild his gym, CROM, after Superstorm Sandy destroyed the first iteration five years ago. His neighbors let Romulo, and his wife Sarah, teach their martial arts classes in living rooms. The local Knights of Columbus opened their doors to them during the rebuilding time.
“Rockaway became our home and people were opening their doors for us and saving us,” Romulo explained.
His book, “Champions Uprising: Fall 7 Times … Stand Up 8,” available now, details his evolution through life from a Queens Village kid too shy to fight back, to a young “street thug,” to “Mr. Classic” in the ring.
All the while, Romulo developed into a positive, motivational role model. He teaches the kids who visit his gym techniques both physical and mental, helping them deal with threats such as bullying. Romulo himself knows how difficult that can be from experience, as he explains in his book.
“A lot of these kids come to the gym because they want to learn,” Romulo said. “Honestly, for me, it was finding a love or passion. Martial arts is what saved me.”
Romulo was 13-3 over a 15-year professional career. As successful as he was in the ring, he aims to be even more successful outside of it, guiding the next generation to overcome adversity.
“I wish I had somebody like myself that was guiding me back then,” Romulo said, “and if I can do that and give them a head start on life and dealing with struggle, I’m all for it.”
If you go
Chris Romulo will sign copies of his book, “Champions Uprising,” at CROM in Rockaway Beach, from 6-9 p.m. Saturday
217 Beach 92nd St.