Jake Paul showed his battling qualities to win a split decision after being dragged to the final bell by Tyron Woodley on Sunday night in Cleveland.
The YouTuber-turned-boxer faced real adversity for the first time since becoming a boxer, taking a solid right hand which rocked him against the ropes, but the referee did not score a knock-down against him.
His controversial crossover into boxing remains undefeated in a fourth fight despite not finding a knockout for the first time.
Paul had not previously been to the end of the second round in any of his previous fights but it was quickly evident that Woodley, a former UFC champion albeit making his boxing debut, would not go down as quickly.
Paul was forced to display more of his skills over a longer period for the first time, and he did land a counter left hook then an uppercut in an impressive third round.
Paul’s only major concern came in the fourth when a right hand clubbed against the side of his head and staggered him, and it seemed he was only kept on his feet by the middle rope.
The referee, however, did not deem it a knock-down for Woodley.
Woodley went on the hunt for a stoppage but Paul bravely came through – it was the first round of his short career that had clearly gone against the YouTuber.
A tiring Paul came back in the sixth through sheer work-rate although his accuracy was not there.
He also struck Woodley with a right hand in the seventh, by which time both boxers were deeply fatigued.
The judges scored the fight 77-75, 75-77, 78-74 to the social media sensation who was fighting in his home city. His mother was already celebrating his victory in the ring.
“He has been boxing, striking, for 20 years. I’ve been doing it for three years,” said Paul on BT Sport Box Office.
“It was tougher than I expected. He is a tough opponent. He put up a good fight.
“He hit me with one real shot in the whole fight.”
He could next fight Tommy Fury, who beat Anthony Taylor on the undercard.
‘Get a tattoo and we will rematch!”
Paul and Woodley argued post-fight over a rematch that hinged on the loser getting a tattoo of the winner’s name.
Woodley said: “Me and Jake need to run it back. I want a rematch. I felt like I won.
“I hit him and the ropes held him up. I landed more power shots.”
Paul dared him: “If you get a tattoo ‘I love Jake Paul’ then we will run it back.”
Woodley agreed: “You bet! Make the bet!”
Paul said: “Get the tattoo and we will run it back. I’ve got a tattoo artist here!”