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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The weekend's biggest sporting event is Wilder-Fury II, which despite its name is not an action movie sequel starring Jean-Claude Van Damme but, rather, a boxing match starring arguably the two best heavyweights in the world.

The backdrop: In their first meeting in December 2018, Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury put on a memorable show at Staples Center, with Fury surviving a brutal right hand in the 12th round to earn a split-decision draw.

Key players:

  • Wilder (42-0-1), a 34-year-old from Tuscaloosa, Ala., who has what ESPN's Max Kellerman calls "the single most devastating knockout punch in the history of boxing."
  • Fury (29-0-1), a 31-year-old from Manchester, England, who stands 6-foot-9-inches and is one of the most charismatic people in the sport.

Fight preview: Wilder will be vying to break Muhammad Ali's record of 10 consecutive heavyweight title defenses. The odds are about even, and the experts are split. If there was ever a time to spend $8o on a boxing match, this is it.

  • Where: MGM Grand (Las Vegas)
  • When: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET
  • Odds: Wilder -125 (bet $125 to win $100); Fury +105 (bet $100 to win $105)
  • Cost: $79.99
  • Where to buy: ESPN+ (PPV), Fox (PPV), Fox Sports Go (PPV), BT Sport Box Office (U.K. only, PPV)

By the numbers: Wilder has the highest knockout percentage, 95.3% (41-43), of any heavyweight champion, and Fury is the only fighter he's never knocked out.

The big picture: With global streaming service DAZN disrupting boxing's pay-per-view model by making fights free for paid subscribers ($19.99/month), a lot is riding on how many people buy Wilder-Fury II, which is being co-produced by ESPN (Fury) and Fox (Wilder).

"If a fight this appetizing fails to generate an impressive number of buys, that could signal the beginning of the end of the 60-year relationship between boxing and pay-per-view."
β€” Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ "The Bronze Bomber" ... ESPN's Mark Kriegel writes about Wilder's late introduction to boxing and the return of the great American heavyweight...

  • "A 19-year-old former high school basketball player tries to walk on at the local community college when he learns his daughter will be born with spina bifida. She'll need multiple surgeries, just for starters. He drops out of school and gets a job at Red Lobster. Then IHOP. Then he walks into a local boxing gym, which itself is not easy to find in west-central Alabama.
  • "He has no expectation of fame or fortune β€” just quick cash as an opponent. He also has a 4 a.m. route delivering kegs for a local beer distributor. Doesn't matter. Still not enough money. It's not working out with his daughter's mother, either. He is heartbroken. He is ashamed of himself."
  • "But along the way, the fighter finds something. It wasn't just a right hand β€” more like a superpower. Less than three years after he walked into the gym, at 22, he medals at the Beijing Olympics. At 29, he wins the WBC heavyweight title. ... Meanwhile, he sees to it that his daughter has everything she ever needs. ... And he keeps knocking people out β€” in a manner never quite seen before."

Go deeper: Boxing's biggest fight is happening outside the ring

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author ofΒ AM
53 mins ago - Economy & Business

America on borrowed time

Illustration: AΓ―da Amer/Axios

Economic recovery will not be linear as the world continues to grapple with the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Why it matters: Despite being propped up by an extraordinary amount of fiscal stimulus and support from central banks, the state of the global economy remains fragile.

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences β€” and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone β€” stopped it.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode β€” CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution β€” Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan β€” Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines β€” "Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts β€” Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again β€” Fed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon β€”Β  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.