Before a potential unification with Mikey Garcia, Jorge Linares must get past tricky challenger Mercito Gesta.

The Venezuelan defends his WBA and Ring Magazine belts at The Forum in California on January 27th, live on BoxNation.

While Gesta is lesser-known than Linares, the Champion admits he cannot afford to take him lightly, especially with a lucrative bout with Garcia around the corner.

Earlier this month, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman stated that WBC World Champion Mikey Garcia must face Linares after their next fights.

"The truth is that I respect Gesta. He’s hungry and he’s worked hard to get the opportunity and he came in," Linares told ESPN Deportes.

Gesta (31-1-2, 17 KOs) suffered his only defeat in December 2012, but was outpointed by former IBF Lightweight Champion Miguel Vazquez.

Gesta and Roach

Eight years ago, Linares got the chance to watch Gesta up close: "I’ve seen him a lot. I had the opportunity to train with him in 2010 when we were with Freddie Roach on the Wild Card.

"We made a couple of sparring rounds, he’s good, left-handed, strong," he added.

Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions, last week warned Linares about overlooking the Filipino.

"It's not an easy fight - Gesta's no joke. He's trained by Freddie Roach and you can never underestimate Roach. Gesta is a leftie, he's a boxer-puncher.

"Obviously Linares wants bigger, better things. He better not sleep on Gesta because it could be dangerous to do that."

Our live action returns on January 27th. Buy BoxNation to watch Jorge Linares v Mercito Gesta, plus Lucas Matthysse v Tewa Kiram.