In his first fight against a full-time professional boxer, Jake Paul lost in a split decision Sunday to Tommy Fury.
The 23-year-old half-brother of heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, Fury garnered 76-73 scores on two of the judges’ cards. The other scored the fight 75-74 in favor of the 26-year-old Paul, who entered the bout with a 6-0 record accumulated against a fellow internet influencer/personality, a former NBA player and three mixed martial arts veterans.
Fury improved his record, also accrued against an underwhelming cast of foes, to 9-0 in the eight-round, cruiserweight matchup staged in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.
“It wasn’t my best performance, but I lost,” said Paul, who called for a rematch. “I’m not making excuses. … I felt a little flat.”
Calling Paul “a true warrior,” Fury said, “He was a better man than I thought he was, but at the end of the day, this is the only thing that has consumed my life for the past 2½ years. This is for everybody who said I couldn’t do it. I had no one in my corner. Everyone thought I was running scared. ”
According to several observers, Fury took the first two rounds and appeared to be on his way to a comfortable win before Paul settled down and began battling back. Paul notched the fight’s only knockdown, when he used a short left to send Fury to the canvas in the eighth round.
By the end of the fight, Paul’s strong chin earned him praise, while much of the criticism centered on referee Hector Afu. Some found Afu, a World Boxing Council official who levied a point deduction each from Paul and Fury in successive rounds, too intrusive.
The WBC had promised that the winner of this fight would enter its cruiserweight rankings. WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman said recently that the division “does not have as many fighters as many others. … The talent is shallow and equitable in the 30s and 40s [of the rankings], so I feel very comfortable that we’re not doing an injustice to anyone.”
Fury disputed that his eighth-round tumble was the result of a legitimate knockdown, calling instead “a slip” on his part.
“I got up and wasn’t hurt,” he said, adding that Paul “took some good shots.”
Fury — best known for his family name and his 2019 stint on the British reality television show “Love Island” — was facing his second straight opponent with a winning record when they stepped into the ring, and the third in his past four bouts. Fury’s first five opponents had a cumulative record of 12-174-5.
Paul was coming off a victory by unanimous decision over 47-year-old former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Before that, he twice defeated former UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and scored a technical knockout of former Bellator and ONE welterweight champion Ben Askren.
After starting his professional boxing career with a January 2020 win against YouTube star Ali Loui “AnEsonGib” Al-Fakhri, Paul scored a second-round knockout of Nate Robinson, a then-36-year-old former three-time NBA slam dunk contest champion making his boxing debut.
After his showing against Fury, longtime boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas tweeted that Paul gained “credibility” in his sport. Atlas added that both fighters Sunday “did not embarrass themselves at all.”
“This is definitely a humbling experience,” said Paul. “I’ll take it on the chin, get back in the gym and we can run it back, because I think we put on an amazing show for the fans tonight.”
In January, Paul signed a contract with the Professional Fighters League to compete in MMA matches, but he emphasized Sunday that he was eager to meet Fury again in the ring.
“We’re going to come back and get that ‘W,’ ” Paul said. “Don’t judge me by my wins, judge me by my losses. I’m going to come back stronger.”