Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz Jr. will try to replicate his stunning victory over Anthony Joshua in Saturday's rematch. It's a compelling sports story and arguably the year's biggest fight, but the controversial location — Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — casts a dark shadow.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia's global reputation was starkly affected by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago, and the country has been accused of hosting sporting events to divert attention away from that story and other human rights abuses, while rebranding itself and boosting tourism.

  • In addition to boxing, WWE wrestling, ATP Tour golf, Formula E racing and the Italian Super Cup (soccer) have all recently been staged there.
  • In the next month alone, it will host the Dakar rally, the Spanish Super Cup, an international tennis event and a European Tour golf tournament (Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy turned down multi-million dollar appearance fees).

What they're saying: Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn sees nothing wrong with hosting the fight in Saudi Arabia. "The Saudis want a more positive image worldwide by bringing in events. But isn't that what they should be doing? They have got to change, and they are changing."

  • "The plan is to make Saudi Arabia the home of mega boxing," Hearn added. "All due respect to Las Vegas, but this place has the ability to bring any fight they want here. ... I also believe that no one has the right to tell a fighter how and where they can earn their money."

The other side: Amnesty International has warned that the Saudis are using this fight to "sportswash" their image.

  • "All over the world, countries are using sport to promote a welcoming picture on the international stage, which often masks a very different reality for ordinary people living in those countries — and when the media circus rolls out of town, things go back to being as bad as they ever were."

The bottom line: "Another lucrative new frontier has emerged in the world of sport. But it may present those tempted to come here with as many quandaries as it does opportunities," writes the BBC's Dan Roan.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Kevin McCarthy's rude awakening

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Kevin McCarthy is learning you can get torched when you try to make everyone happy, especially after an insurrection.

Why it matters: The House Republican leader had been hoping to use this year to build toward taking the majority in 2022, but his efforts to bridge intra-party divisiveness over the Capitol siege have him taking heat from every direction, eroding his stature both with the public and within his party.

The next big political war: redistricting

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are preparing a mix of tech and legal strategies to combat expected gerrymandering by Republicans, who are planning to go on legal offense themselves.

Why it matters: Democrats failed to regain a single state legislature on Election Day, while Republicans upped their control to 30 states' Houses and Senates. In the majority of states, legislatures draw new congressional district lines, which can boost a party's candidates for the next decade.

38 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Vaccinations, relief timing dominate Sweet 16 call

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) speaks during a news conference in December with a group of bipartisan lawmakers. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Vaccine distribution, pandemic data and a cross-party comity dominated today's virtual meeting between White House officials and a bipartisan group of 16 senators, Senator Angus King told Axios.

Why it matters: Given Democrats' razor-thin majority in both chambers of Congress, President Biden will have to rely heavily on this group of centrist lawmakers — dubbed the "Sweet 16" — to pass any substantial legislation.