Fury withstood a late knockdown – which he insisted was a mere slip – to earn a close victory against his sworn enemy in by far the biggest event of his young career to date as YouTube star Paul was beaten for the first time in his opening meeting with a professional boxer, having previously amassed a 6-0 record by defeating fellow social media celebrities and ex-MMA champions.
One judge scored the fight – in which both men had a point deducted – 75-74 in Paul’s favour, but the other two each had it 76-73 for Fury.
As well as huge bragging rights after years of acrimony and cancelled bouts, Fury’s win also earns him a mammoth payday and a top-40 ranking within the WBC, though the duo are likely to go head to head again later in 2023 with Paul possessing a rematch clause that he says he intends to trigger quickly.
“Tonight I made my own legacy, I made my own legacy,” an emotional Fury said after a victory in which he displayed superior boxing fundamentals against a novice, with big brother and reigning WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury watching on alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Mike Tyson and Kevin Hart plus a number of other boxing stars.
“All the way through these two and a half years, I had a dream, a vision, and no-one believed me. Now they can stand up and take note.”
A magnanimous Paul admitted afterwards that he had lost, though questioned the scoring and said he had felt flat after two bouts of illness and an arm injury suffered during training.
“All respect to Tommy, he won, don’t judge me by my wins, judge me by my losses,” he said. “I’ll come back, I thought I deserve that rematch, it was a great fight, a close fight.”
On Saturday’s undercard, Badou Jack became a three-weight world champion at the age of 39 after twice dropping defending WBC cruiserweight titlist Ilunga Makabu before finally stopping him in the 12th and final round.
On a good night for homegrown fighters, Saudi Arabia’s Ziyad Almaayouf just edged a four-round welterweight war with Ecuadorian teenager Ronald Martinez on points in only his second professional appearance.
American Muhsin Cason, younger brother of two-time heavyweight world champion Hasim Rahman, knocked down Taryel Jafarov inside a brutal first round, with the latter pulled by his corner quickly due to injury.
Bader Samreen – hoping to go on and become Jordan’s first-ever world champion – also demolished a seasoned veteran in Romania’s former Olympian Viorel Simion inside the first round.
On the early prelim card, there were wins for Adam Saleh, Ziad Majrashi and Saudi Arabia’s first professional female fighter in Ragad Al-Naimi.