Siding with Quentin Fortune

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By Laura Hochnadel

"Fortune sides with him who dares."

-Virgil (70-19BC)
Author of the epic poem, Aeneid

Quentin Fortune is a soft-spoken man, but in the boxing ring, his dedication and focus come across loud and clear. His lean, super-muscular physique underscores his rigorous training regiment. He's in the gym Monday through Friday, with an occasional Saturday thrown into the mix. He skips rope, does heavy and speed bag work, spars, and follows a healthy diet.

Photographs courtesy of Otto Bock HealthCare.

Win, lose, or draw, Fortune is a fighter in every sense of the word. A New York Police Department (NYPD) administrative employee and welterweight boxer with the NYPD Fighting Finest/Harlem's Finest boxing team, Fortune is the contender wearing extra-long shorts, custom made to cover the transtibial prosthesis he wears in place of his lower-right leg. He has been fighting non-sanctioned exhibition matches, mainly around the New York City area, with the Fighting Finest for two years. His record is 16 wins and 2 losses, and it's clear that not much will keep him out of the ring.

Fortune has been a fighter since his early days, at first facing the everyday struggles and physical scuffles on the mean streets of his youth, but then in 1992, a friend introduced Fortune to boxing as a way to make better use of his energy and avoid trouble. "I was a fighter all my life," Fortune said. "I just learned to box." Boxing was a natural fit for Fortune-he won his first match.

By 1996, Fortune was riding high on his successes. In March of that year, he advanced to the National Golden Gloves championship held in Cleveland, Ohio. A "perennial finalist," according to an article in the New York Daily News, Fortune lost the match and with it his chance to represent the United States as part of the U.S. Boxing team at the 1996 Summer Olympics. Instead, he turned pro later that year and built an impressive record of 5 wins, 1 loss (KO 0), and 1 draw. Unfortunately, Fortune's luck was about to take an unexpected turn, and he would soon be facing a different kind of fight.

TKO

In April 1999, Fortune was involved in a motorcycle accident that claimed his right leg below the knee. He had borrowed a buddy's Suzuki GSX-R1100, a high-performance sport bike. "I did what 'normal riders' do," he says, meaning pop a few wheelies and test the bike's speed. "You want to learn your bike so you have to test it out in all aspects," he explains.

"My accident was a result of somebody doing...a wheelie behind me," Fortune recalls. "And when he came down, he came down on the side of my bike and propelled me into cars and walls and things...."

In the months following the accident, Fortune's physical training and competitiveness kicked in, providing him with an advantage during his recovery. "It was a tough accident," he says. "[However], because I was...training for a fight...my body was so conditioned that it took all of those bumps and bruises along the way...."

During his recovery, Fortune says his occupational therapist had to work hard to keep up with his drive. "My will to do was in the atmosphere, it was up there," he says. "When I was able to stand, I [stood]. When I was doing occupational therapy, I was doing more than the average person [in the same situation]."

With his strong "will to do," a knowledgeable medical team, and the support of family and friends, Fortune was not down for the count for long.

Comeback

Michael Smerka, CP, adjusts Quentin Fortune's prosthesis.

By December, Fortune was back in the gym. While this time he was helping a novice fighter to train for an upcoming Golden Gloves match, his goal was to become a boxing contender himself once again. Doing that, however, was no easy task. While Fortune easily regained his stamina and strength, learning to maneuver in the ring while wearing a prosthesis was another story.

"It was very hard because you have to learn to walk again and balance yourself while throwing punches," Fortune says. The thought of getting back in the ring worried him. But in December 2004, almost six years after the motorcycle accident, Fortune pushed his qualms aside and stepped back into the ring as a fighter. "It was scary getting back in the ring again," he recalls. Sometime during that match, though, his fear must have subsided. Fortune won his comeback match.

A Smooth Ride

As a southpaw, Fortune leads with his right leg. Nowadays, his lead leg includes a prosthesis he calls "Caddy," short for Cadillac, because it gives him a "smooth ride," he says, just like the smooth-riding Cadillacs he saw cruising the streets of New York when he was growing up.

Caddy comprises a low-profile, vertical-shock foot and the Harmony P3 elevated vacuum socket system with built-in shock absorption and transverse torsion absorption, manufactured by Otto Bock HealthCare, Duderstadt, Germany. The P3 replaces Fortune's former pin-locking liner suspension system. A move that Fortune's prosthetist, Michael Smerka, CP, Hanger Prosthetics & Orthotics, New York, New York, says was necessary to get better control of the volume fluctuation and discomfort points that Fortune was experiencing with his old system. The system "allows the socket to have 'give' while rotation inside the socket is minimized," Smerka explains.

Fortune has been a Hanger P&O patient since 1999. He began working with Smerka four years ago.

"I knew Quentin was a high-activity patient, and I saw some improvements we could make in the socket [that he was wearing at the time]...," Smerka says. "We made some of those improvements, and that really worked to help him get to the next level of training.

"There was so much going on in the socket with rotation [and] volume changes...," Smerka continues. "I had been to the gym where Quentin works out a couple times to see what he goes through so I could understand from a clinical perspective how to better treat his prosthesis so that he could be effective.... He really trains hard, and putting his limb through that kind of training, it got to the point where we needed better control...."

Fortune says, "I was building up a lot of perspiration [when fighting and training]...so it was easy for my residual limb to slip out." However, he is quick to add that this happened only during practice and not in an actual match.

As Fortune kept advancing with his training and boxing, Smerka also advanced his own skills and expanded his "toolbox."

The P3 became Smerka's tool of choice. "We knew to try to use every tool that we could to dissipate some of those forces that Quentin generates when he trains, when he fights," Smerka says. "[The P3] stabilized his volume and...gave him a lock into the prosthesis where it didn't really allow so much of the rotation that was happening."

This is the "smooth ride" that Fortune says "Caddy" provides him.

Because Fortune demands so much from himself emotionally and physically, he naturally inspires others to do their best as well. He says his three children see his energy and discipline, which encourages them to push the boundaries of their own pursuits. Smerka is not immune either.

"Quentin really is an exceptional individual...," Smerka says. "He's the kind of guy that really pushes someone like myself to exceed my own boundaries as a clinician because he's doing so much. He never stops, he never quits...."

Fortune says that he neither expects nor wants special treatment, which is part of the reason for his extra-long, custom-made boxing shorts-opponents do not see his prosthesis. Instead they say, "Look at that guy coming in here with these big shorts," Fortune jokes.

"Treat me as equal," Fortune says. "I have a disability or a handicap, but just give me the opportunity. My main thing is never let nobody shut a door on you.... Never give in."

And because of his daring, "never quit" attitude, it seems that fortune does indeed side with him.

Laura Hochnadel can be reached at