RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — YouTube star Jake Paul took the first defeat of his professional boxing career Sunday night, losing a split decision to Tommy Fury.
Paul (6-1) knocked down Fury with a short left hand early in the final round of their cruiserweight bout, but the younger half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury controlled long stretches of the eight-round meeting at Diriyah Arena.
Two judges scored the bout 76-73 for Fury (9-0, 4 KOs), while the third favored Paul, 75-74.
“I’ve already won every single way in life,” Paul said. “I made it farther than I ever thought I would, and beyond. This is a humbling experience. I’ll take it on the chin and come back.”
Fury is the first actual professional boxer fought by Paul, who built his lucrative second career by taking on mixed martial artists and a fellow YouTuber in boxing bouts that generated huge social media attention despite featuring more enthusiasm than skill.
Fury also is much better known as a celebrity sibling — and much more accomplished as a reality television star — than as a boxer, leading to a relatively even matchup with Paul. Fury’s unbeaten record entering this bout was built against a series of wildly overmatched opponents with a combined record of 24-176-5.
“In my first main event, 23 years old, I had the world on my shoulders, and I came through,” Fury said. “This, to me, is a world title fight. I trained so hard for this. This was my destiny.”
Both fighters had good moments in the first four rounds in front of a star-studded crowd in Saudi Arabia, but Fury landed more significant shots behind a consistent jab that allowed him to keep Paul at a distance.
Paul appeared to stun Fury with an accurate left hook early in the fifth round, but he also lost a point when the referee penalized him, apparently for pushing down on Fury’s head in a clinch. The referee then took a point from Fury in the sixth, apparently for excessive clinching.
Fury had a strong seventh round despite a cut near his left eye from a clash of heads, repeatedly tagging Paul with combinations. But Paul abruptly reversed the momentum with a perfectly timed left that wobbled Fury, who put his left glove on the canvas to steady himself and bounced up immediately.
Fury finished strong and claimed the decision.
Fury and Paul were slated to meet two times previously, but Fury was unavailable for both showdowns. He injured a rib before their scheduled bout in December 2021, and he was denied entry to the U.S. last summer ahead of a planned meeting in August.
Paul used the postponements to taunt Fury, and the emotions built into a contentious weigh-in last week in Saudi Arabia, which jumped at the chance to underwrite this boxing spectacle and social media event.
“All the way through these 2 1/2 years, I had a dream, I had a vision that I would win this fight,” Fury said. “No one believed me. Now I can stand up, and everyone can take note.”
The crowd in the arena outside Riyadh included Al Nassr forward Cristiano Ronaldo, comedian Kevin Hart and a collection of boxers including Mike Tyson, Deontay Wilder, Devin Haney and Tyson Fury, who had publicly urged his younger sibling to interrupt Paul’s career with a knockout.