Klinefelter talks about night that changed her life -- and ended her boxing career

Iowa City woman remains involved in coaching 'violent art form'

John Campbell
Published: May 4 2012 | 2:30 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 6:43 pm in

Emily Klinefelter can’t get away from the sport that almost killed her.

Klinefelter, a full-time CPA, is coaching aspiring fighters at the ICOR Boxing Club in Iowa City. It's her way to stay involved in what she admits is a “violent art form.”

On Feb. 5, 2011, Klinefelter took on Christina Ruiz in building “C” at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, the 96th fight of her illustrious, undefeated career.

But this would be her last fight.

Klinefelter, who had never been knocked down, much less knocked out, does not remember the fight and has never watched video of the carnage.

In the second round, Ruiz knocked Emily down twice. In the third round, Klinefelter went down for good.

“Like a rock,” Johnson County Fairgrounds Facilities manager Gary Shemanski recalls.

He and Cindy Parsons, Emily’s mother, remember the building becoming deathly quiet as the ring doctor and others tended to Klinefelter, who remained unconscious in the ring.

Klinefelter was rushed by ambulance to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where a CAT scan revealed a large blood clot on the brain.

“She was rapidly deteriorating neurologically,” said Dr. Matthew Howard, the head neurosurgeon at UIHC who had been called in to take over the case. “She was in a tenuous situation, from a clinical standpoint.”

In layman’s terms, Klinefelter was in a life-or-death struggle.

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During surgery, Howard removed part of Klinefelter's skull to relieve pressure, then removed the blood clot. Klinefelter’s brain had shifted, however, and Howard still feared she might be impaired if she recovered.

Klinefelter not only survived the knockout, the blood clot and the major surgery, she bounced back quickly, with no physical or mental complications.

“Remarkable,” Howard said.

“I think we have been granted a miracle here,” Parsons said.

Klinefelter still believes the knockout was a fluke and wishes she could have a rematch. That is not going to happen. She has a titanium plate in her head and doctor’s orders to never box again.

That is tough on the 28-year-old Klinefelter, who admits she was angry and embarrassed at what happened that night. She felt she had let her coaches and fans down and says it took about a year to get over that feeling.

She also said she realizes she is lucky to be alive and healthy. Many feel she had such a miraculous recovery because the incident took place so close to a major neurological center like UIHC.

Saturday night, some of the fighters she is coaching will be involved in the Cinco de Mayo Mayhem. It's a fight card that will take Klinefelter back to building “C” at the Johnson County Fairgrounds — where her life changed forever with one wicked, left hook to the head.

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