All three judges scored the fight in favour of 37-year-old Pulev, who now becomes the mandatory IBF challenger to Anthony Joshua.
Fury, the 24-year-old cousin of Tyson Fury, came into the fight with a 21-1 record – his only loss coming against Joseph Parker in Manchester last September.
Fury sustained a bad cut above his left eye in only the second round and, although he rocked Pulev with a big right hand in the eighth, the Bulgarian came out well on top, with one judge scoring the fight 118-110.
Speaking after the fight, Fury said: “It wasn’t my night – the cut I suffered a few weeks ago opened up and it affected my performance. Despite that, I gave it my all, went the full twelve rounds and ran him close.
“It was a big ask for my fans to travel all this way and I want to thank them for coming out in force to show their support.”
Trainer and father, Peter Fury added: “Hughie came into the fight with a cut above the eye. He was stitched up two weeks ago but they [the doctors] said it would heal in time for the fight and obviously it didn’t.”
“Pulev caught him with a jab and split it right open. From that moment in the second round it was an uphill battle. I’m proud of my son – he was fighting on away soil, injured, yet he still went the full distance.”
“If the cut hadn’t happened we would have seen a different outcome.”
There was some British success on the undercard however, with Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshallputting on a dominant display to claim a unanimous decision victory over Argentina’s Yanina Orozco, which saw her earn the WBA super-middleweight Intercontinental Championship title.